Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bless Me Father!

I'm running for mayor of the little borough in which I live. It is a contested race.

"Bless me Father for I have sinned!"
"Father, I am having a very difficult time keeping a Christian perspective regarding my opponent." What followed was an honest account of my feelings regarding the misogynist, arrogant, idea stealing, SOB I'm running against.
Oops. Guess I need to work on that Christian feeling bit -- just a little...
As a result of the previous part of my confession in addition to my political angst, I was given an entire rosary for my penance. I was also given beautiful, total absolution through the hands of a very generous, loving priest -- such peace!
Confession has such a bad rap. There is the whole having to say out loud just what your conscience -- ever working if you're Catholic -- has told you needs expunging. There is a reluctance to put it all out in front of another human being. The thing to keep in mind is that person can give you the peace that St. Paul tells us, "passes all understanding."
The Sacrament of Penance is actually one of the things I enjoy most about my return to Catholicism -- some 23 years ago. Since my return, thanks to some lovely priests, one in particular, I have received absolution and peace in a variety of locations from a restaurant parking lot to my personal favorite – a broom closet.
My penances have been equally varied. My favorite of all time was to leave the confessional, look at the huge crucifix hanging in the middle of the church, reflect on how much Jesus loves me and say his name. It sure and hell beat saying an entire rosary, everyday for the rest of my life – an actual penance one very angry priest gave me but thankfully later retracted by a kinder one.
There is nothing more cleansing than this most misunderstood sacrament. Think of it! Starting anew each time with a clean slate. Another opportunity to grow in the love of God. Those are not just idle words. God's love is real, through the hands of the priest it becomes palpable.
As a chaplain, peace is the thing I pray for most with my patients. Peace – think of it. You really can't get too much of it. Peace, if you're ill. Peace, if you're depressed. Peace, if you're angry. Peace, if you're lonely. Peace, if you're anxious. It's all good.
My Protestant friends, and many of my Catholic ones, tell me that a priest is not at all necessary for confession and I am happy that they can find that peace in their own way.
I really do believe that the priest is acting as Jesus and that Jesus is using that priest to bring me back closer to him. A dear friend is my usual confessor. He has known me for a very long time. He has heard quite a variety of sins from me in that time. Because he knows me he is able to give me really good counsel. I hope he would tell you that through the years I have matured – at least a little – in my faith.
Priests have seen the lines at the confessional dwindle markedly through the years. Perhaps because of that – or I would like to think – just because they are kind – most priests are very patient and helpful to the penitent. So don't let the fact that you've been away since forever keep you from trying this wonderful tool in your spiritual arsenal. Peace awaits!