Dear Friends: A little Egypt-based humor before we kick off the serious topic of Reconciliation:
My son is about to make his first confession today; in the new way of referring to about it, it is his first Reconciliation. I wanted to take the opportunity of today’s post to share my experiences with what was, for me, one of the most daunting processes of joining the Catholic Church. I hope that by doing so, it lends a new perspective and makes Reconciliation a little less intimidating. In many ways, its is a reason to celebrate.
When I think back to how I prepared for the process during my RCIA class, I was grateful to hear about how some of the First Confessions went from my RCIA instructors. While it is difficult to open up about past sins, I think everyone recognizes that none of us is sinless, so I appreciated the insight of what my cherished mentors brought into the confessional with them. So, if anyone is approaching their first confession, just ask Catholic friends how they handled theirs. It is a good first place to begin.
As I was approaching my first Reconciliation, I asked by blogging icon, The Anchoress, if she had any tips. She certainly did: Lent Prep Confession Primer. That was extremely useful, as it directed me to a several references describing the Rite of Reconciliation.
One of the other resources that I used is a handout that our church made available in front of the Reconciliation Room. It’s recommendation was to reflect upon the 10 Commandments, and see where you may not have been quite following them with the full intent of what they command.
1. I am the Lord your God: You shall have no other gods before me.
2. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
3. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
4. Honor your father and mother
5. You shall not kill/murder
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (and I would imagine not the husband, either).
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
In a nutshell, as I reflected on what the heart of those Commandments meant, over the course of the 20-plus years since my own baptism, I had violations on each one but #5 and #9. Here is example:
Violation of Commandment #1: I use to read Tarot Cards (which I enjoyed, as part of my Eastern European background and also because it was fun to do at parties). Frankly, I think that was the most worrisome thing I said during the Reconciliation process, as the Father became very concerned about the opening to evil dabbling in that sort of thing creates. After reviewing some material on Exorcism recently, I fully appreciate his concern.
Upon reading “Bad Catholics Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins”, I am adding a new assessment to my pre-Reconciliation prep: A check of the Seven Deadlies. Here is the list:
I recently had a little combination episode with Pride and Anger (a personal demon) at a recent Tea Party event, about which I am quite contrite. Basically, I had my historically-important and awesomely awesome speech, which was cut short – and I delved into a little inappropriate wrath because I was not compassionate about the stress that the organizer was undergoing. Fortunately, because I of my Catholic faith and all the teaching I have received recently, I recognized in problem before the event ended in time to make amends, but it was not my finest moment.
Another aspect to review is compliance with the BIGGEST and BEST TWO LAWS.
1) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a
2) "Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I am still working on these.
While preparing for the Confession, I have personally found it helpful to keep a wry outlook on my presentation. Unless you are Charles Manson, Ted Bundy Jr., or Kermit Gosnell, chances are that your Confessor has heard some version of what you are about to confess before (though, perhaps, me sharing the time I used a voodoo doll – with humor and not intent, in frustration with co-worker issues was an exception to that rule). Here are some classic confessions from the movies that will help underscore that point:
Loretta Castorini: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession.
Priest: What sins have you to confess?
Loretta Castorini: Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancee, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident.
Priest: Then it's not a sin. But... what was that second thing you said, Loretta?
Priest: Do you follow the Catholic way
Richard Boyle: ...Not exactly.
(NOTE: A Big Hollywood article on Salvador notes that has a hilarious: If none of the above convinces you to check out “Salvador,” I promise you that watching Boyle give his first confession to a priest in 30 years is well worth your time. The scene is poignant, utterly faithful to the character, and on-the floor-funny.I have ordered the movie on Amazon, so I can specifically watch this scene.)
There are certain aspects of Reconciliation that are worthy of celebrating. Personally, I view this as a chance to let my faith ripen, and become a better person. As it is often pointed out, the first step in resolving a problem is identifying that you have one.
Another facet: I know find myself asking if an act/thought is “Confession-worthy”. In other words, do I want to have to take what I am about to do or say into the Confessional and have to chat about it with my pastor. Frankly, I have found it a great, new control on certain less grace-filled parts of my flawed nature.
Another benefit that I have discovered because of Reconciliation: my discretion level has increased. I find myself listening to my friends, and respecting what they share with me by keeping what I hear to myself.
One last thing that may be concerning: What about the penance? A few reflections from this newbie Catholic. The first one comes from The Anchoress:
Sometimes it is not enough to hear “Jesus loves you and forgives your sins,” you need to hear, “yeah, girl, you screwed that up, pretty good,” too. If the weight and depth of the sin is never plumbed, how can the uplifting counterbalance of Grace be properly, gratefully, understood?
You really need contrition to make the Rite of Reconciliation work. If you confess something without that contrition, and you have no intention of changing, then you are breaking at least Commandment #8 and probably a few others. Click Here for responses to an illuminating discussion on this topic, which is beyond the scope of this post.
Therefore, the penance is a growth opportunity. In my case, I had an awesome penance: Reading and praying on Galatians 5:22-26.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
I hope this has been helpful! Other great references are:
The reason for celebration: You sins are forgiven you. Your faith has saved you. Go, and sin no more.