It had been a while since my last Confession. Three months, to be exact, and I wasn’t pleased with myself for being suck a slacker about it. I know the relief that comes from the absolution I receive in Confession, and I’ve told multiple people that my favorite words to hear are the words the priest whispers to me in the confessional:
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Nevertheless, I had let myself put it off, let the busyness of my life interfere with this important Sacrament. And, boy, was it showing. I was having bouts of depression, terrible conversations in my head about my failings as a wife and mother, doubts about being a Dominican, crushing worry about my children’s souls and their faith in God. The noise in my head was becoming unbearable, and I even felt like panic attacks were coming on every time I lay down at night to sleep. I’d squeeze my eyes shut, praying to my guardian angel and Saint Michael to protect me. Somewhere in my head I knew that this was The Evil One talking to me, putting these things into my head, but it was so hard to hear that reminder. When the inner voice started telling me that I was unworthy of Heaven, that if I should die, I had no hope of it, I knew for sure it was Satan’s voice speaking. But it was still so hard to get past it and to not believe it. I’d spent so long away from Confession that I could just barely resist the awful things in my brain. And I started to actually fear going to avail myself of the Sacrament, even though I knew in my heart that I needed it. One Saturday evening, I was so terribly depressed that I could barely tolerate being at Mass. I thanked God I wasn’t serving, and worked throughout the entire Mass on not feeling, fearful of the wave of tears that would be let loose if I listened too closely to the readings or homily. I was fearful, being crushed under agnozing worry over my children. All I can remember from Mass that night was that the second reading started out saying something about not being anxious. At that point, I started to count the bricks on the walls of the church, and I left the sanctuary to hide in the bathroom for most of the homily. After Communion, I closed my eyes tight and bowed my head, crying quietly as I prayed. Since crying at Mass is a Thing That I Do, I passed off the rest of my behavior that day with, “I’m just not feeling good today.” You would think that I would go to Confession as soon as possible after that, but it was still another couple of weeks before I went. The depression had lifted a bit, the anxiety lessened, and I lined up in the pew next to Nathan. (The girls were at the Diocesn Youth Conference, and they were going to Confession there.) I loaded up my Confession app, and when it was my turn, I entered the room, knelt behind the screen, and began. I went though the easier sins on my list, and finally admitted how abandoned I’d felt — how I had been despairing, unable and unwilling to pray, angry at God. Father spoke kindly to me (and, to be honest, I’ve never had a priest react otherwise in all my years of going to Confession), gave me my penance, and asked for my Act of Contrition. I was barely able to get it out between sobs. Father spoke the beautiful words above, passed a box of tissues to me, and gave me a blessing. Once I calmed down enough to leave, I went to pray near Jesus in the tabernacle. I thanked God for the Sacraments, for His Son, for the Holy Spirit’s assistance in making a good Confession. Then I walked out of the chapel feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. After Mass, I told my husband that I felt better than I had in more than a month. I have always told my girls, as well as the students in my Sunday school classes, that Confession is a Sacrament that gives you the graces to live a good Christian life. I’ve said that Confession gives you the strength to face this world and be a faithful Catholic. This most recent Confession proved it to me in a very real way. My fears and anxieties were relieved. My sorrow was taken away. My self-doubt was shown to be false.