... came to an end in one rather poignant way yesterday.
After a heartfelt discussion with my priest, during my confession no less, I was 'cleared' to take Holy Communion with the words "party hardy"... but I'll come back to that here in a sec.
It had been at least 40 years since my last confession. 40 years of initially accepting God with a childlike faith, practically abandoning Him until I reached the age of 30, embracing Him then with a zealousness that lacked maturity and wisdom, abandoning Him again in frustation and some admitted pain and now once again putting Him, or at least attempting to (in fits and starts), back where He is central. It's been quite a trek. And I'm no where near ending the journey.
Throughout the week, the missus and I felt we were ready to participate in this Sacrament of Reconciliation and decided to do so just before Mass. We were both admittedly nervous, she manifesting that nervousness with shaking hands and a decidedly crimson face. I had a serious case of the butterflies. We both had a Reconciliation cheat sheet given to us during a related RCIA class and poured over it again just before entering. We decided I would go first.
And so I did.
Father Mike, who is blind, asked me if I wanted to sit across from him when I first knelt at the veiled divide behind which he was sitting. Somewhat chagrined (kneeling behind a veiled divide when you're confessing to a blind priest is kind of... silly... but hey, I was... nervous... cut me some slack), I did just that. And then we went through this oft criticized ritual. I can't tell you how meaningful it was, how holy, how... divine. It took a while to recite 40 years of transgressions (and let's not kid, we used the Decalogue as context and Father Mike walked me through them, reminding me of Christ's high view of each commandment) but we got through it.
I'll admit to all that I was emotional and faltered at times as a result. The holiness and sanctity of the event was at times overwhelming. Yet Father Mike, who is acting in persona Christi during this (and all Sacraments), gently guided me through it, balancing the seriousness of my sin with the mercy and forgiveness that defines the essence of the rite. It was, simply, beautiful. And I literally walked out of there feeling as if I'd shed 200 lbs.
But there was an additional moment that I think is worthy of exposing. We had in essence completed the Sacrament (absent my doing the penance that I'd been asked to perform) and so I asked Father Mike if, having completed my confession, I was ready for Holy Communion. In a conversation I'd had with him days earlier, I'd shared with him my strongest desires to believe in The Real Presence but confessed that night that I wasn't quite there. He again reminded me that my desires were sourced in God, that He would in His time fulfill those desires, that in his view, God was working evidentially in my life and powerfully so. Then there was a pregnant pause, one I ended by asking him, again, if in his view, I was cleared to partake. He grinned hugely, leaned forward and said with conviction... party hardy.
And so less than an hour later, having received God's mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, I received Him in Communion.
Powerfully, emotionally, faithfully.
And so my journey back to Rome continues.