Monday, March 03, 2008

The Confession of a Blithering Idiot

Tonight we had Parish Reconciliation: A time for readings and prayers followed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation (it is also called Confession or Penance). Two extra priests were available to hear confessions. It was a nice evening, honestly. And I am always in need of the grace I receive in this Holy Mystery.

Unfortunately, desperately needing something, does not make one good at that thing. I do my best to prepare for confession by praying and examining my conscience, but the moment I get face to face with the priest, or sit behind the screen, I go all jelly-brained. Does this happen to anyone else? I don't know whether I ought to make a list and check it off as I go, tackling the thing systematically, or whether I should wrap up my depravity in narrative. But somewhere between standing and sitting (or kneeling), I lose something near 80 IQ points (and that's most of them). Perhaps it's the lack of feedback: I expect a dialogue and the priest lets me monologue. So I go all slack in the brain, become self-conscious, forget my plans and drool out some sort of sordidness. Some things get more weight than they ought. Some get less. It is all, quite frankly, a mess.

Now, I don't like the ledger approach with the counting of the number of sins and the cataloging of kinds: "I lusted after strange women 428 times; I ate immoderately, well, every time; I pretended I was sleeping whenever the baby woke; I watch American Idol, and I enjoy it; etc." It's not me, and I'd have to keep a notebook in between confessions. A thick notebook.

What I need to do is simply go and say, "Look, here are the law and the prophets. Here's the Decalogue. Here's Christ's law of love. I've done a bang-up job of screwing it all up. I've failed at every point. For these and all my sins, I am heartily (not 'hardly') sorry." That level of generality, of course, doesn't pass muster.

I leave thankful that the priest doesn't pile on penance upon penance because he was forced to sit through the ordeal.

Still and all, through the stumbling and hawing, there is grace. God is near.

Thanks be to God for his great mercy and love: They hurtle out before me and behind me, to my right and to my left, beyond comprehension or measure. Thanks be to God; he is good. His love endures forever.


kkollwitz said...

I try to reduce my sins to two or three of the categories that I've offended against the most, and confess the worst occcasion of each, worst usually meaning the ones that are the most humbling to confess. I give enough detail such that confessing them is indeed humbling.

About half the time I have written a few notes down to make sure my time is well-spent in the confessional, since there are usually more sinners in line than there is time to hear their confessions.

Scott Lyons said...

I appreciate the help, kkollwitz. I think the other thing that would be monumentally helpful is confessing more often - planning confession rather than, "Well, I'd like to go ..." Without making certain plans, I'm bound to find myself engaged elsewhere and soon months have past.

kkollwitz said...

"Without making certain plans, I'm bound to find myself engaged elsewhere and soon months have past"

Tell me about it, we have 4 teenagers in the house....getting 6 of us to confession early enough to get all 6 through the line is no easy task.