Tod Worner is covering the beauty of penance, the sacrament of confession and more particularly, what he experienced recently at a recent Lenten Reconciliation Service:
I have to be honest. I was jarred when I first heard it. It was on a Tuesday night – a Lenten Reconciliation Service. The gorgeous sanctuary of our church was warmly lit and Richard, the music director, gingerly played beautiful, familiar, sweetened hymns on the piano. Lines were formed around the periphery of the sanctuary. Five priests were working overtime (as if there is a prescribed set of “working hours” in a priest’s life anyway) leaning in, comforting, consoling, absolving and sending. And people kept a respectful distance from the penitent in front of them.
I, too, was standing in line awaiting my turn to confess. I shifted from foot to foot as I wondered if I chose the right line, how long this would take, whether I should go home after a long day and try another time. But it was when I was five or six deep in line that I heard it. It was a heave. A deep inward breath. And it came from a well-dressed woman in her forties hunched forward in her seat before a priest. It wasn’t just a breath or a gasp. It was a sob. But it was only one. Simply slipping out. The cry pierced the sanctuary for only a split second before it was stifled by its owner who shortly after stood up, knelt in a nearby pew and wiped her eyes. She bent over in prayer and silently shook. Crying. Crying.
Feebly, I prayed for her – prayed that she would find peace.
It wasn’t long before she gathered herself up and walked out. She was well-dressed, composed if not a bit elegant. I had never seen her before and I may never see her again. Frankly, I’m not sure many others noticed what I had noticed – much less concerned themselves with what I was thinking about. But I couldn’t help wonder why that woman wept at Confession.
Now, to be honest (and I commend you if you are thinking this), it was none of my business. But I couldn’t help myself. What sort of sins, I wondered would make me cry in Confession, would make me shake, would make me pour the last ounce of my soul’s blackness out in the presence of a silent, but deeply attentive priest? What is it like to have that deep, raw and real honesty with my priest, my God and myself?
Read the rest, it's captivating.
I'm reminded of my first confession after being away from the Church for more than 40 years. Something I chronicled here:
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 Reconciliationcheat 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.
Indeed. That you can read if interested here.