It’s the second day of Lent; anyone besides me still wondering how to make it more meaningful (or significant)? There are many resources that can help with this: the USCCB, Franciscan, Busted Halo, and Ascension Presents just to name a few.
In this year’s Lenten blog, we have a theme: Return to me with your whole heart.
The reading from Deuteronomy speaks of what can happen to our hearts:
“If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” Deut 30:17-20
I’ve been working on returning my heart to the Lord over the last few years. I’m intentional in this phrasing because it’s been challenging dealing with past hurts and baggage from the sins of my youth and adulthood (as well as some repressed or forgotten memories). A byproduct of this process is me trying to get to confession at least every two months. My goal is once a month, but life happens and confession gets pushed back.
Typing this my inner voice shouts, “Are you kidding me?! You let these situations keep you from getting closer to your Lord?” I have to remember what a counselor said to me when I was sorting through the fresh debris of my divorce. “Be gentle with yourself,” she told me. I am more inclined to shake that off and reprimand myself. I do sin, daily, in my thoughts, in my words, what I’ve done, what I’ve failed to do.
In 1984, Pope John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation titled Reconciliation and Penance. It is a rich document that helps to remind us that reconciliation and penance is, “a means of purification, enrichment and deepening in personal faith. May it also be a leaven capable of encouraging the growth in the midst of the world of peace and brotherhood, hope and joy-values which spring from the Gospel as it is accepted, meditated upon and lived day by day after the example of Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom it pleased God to reconcile all things to himself.”
As Pope, St. John Paul II went to confession on a daily basis. Mother Teresa went at least once a week. I have family members who haven’t been since the year they (or their children) were confirmed. My heart aches for them when I hear this because they haven’t experienced the healing forgiveness, grace, and love of our heavenly Father. I, too, have gone through times in my life when I have been ashamed or felt extreme guilt about going to confession. These feelings keep us from the healing graces available through the sacrament.
Fr. Mike Schmitz has some great tips about going in for reconciliation. “..honestly, the most important thing in going to Confession when you haven’t been for a while is: just go. I can’t tell you how many people walk in and say something like, “I haven’t been to Confession since second grade…” So we talk and I’ll walk them through it; the priest went to school for this…he knows you may get a little lost.” Here are a few suggestions to help prepare for the sacrament.
Third: Find out when and where the next available Confession is held.
Fourth (optional): Write down what you want to confess. It is helpful if you have figured out what the sin is “called” and include the estimated number of times you committed that particular sin. Refer to the examination of conscience and if it’s a mortal or venial sin.
Five: Show up at a Confession location during the time for Confession (or make an appointment).
Six: Walk in, let the priest know what you’re up to. You can say, “Bless me, Father. It’s been XXX long since my last Confession. Here are my sins.” Or if you lose your train of thought and totally forget. You can tell him that too. “Father, I’ve totally blanked. How do I start?” I’ve also said, “I don’t know where to start. Will you help me through this?” Each of these is absolutely acceptable.
Seven: Listen to the priest and don’t be upset if his advice isn’t the most profound thing you’ve ever heard. He will give you something to do: penance. It’s supposed to help you take your next steps forward after Confession is over.
Eight: Leave the “Confession space” and do your penance and be joyful! Your sins have been forgiven!
Remember what Pope Francis said, “the sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. Be courageous, and go to confession.”
If you have more questions check out Catholics come home.org