For many years, I was extremely irresponsible with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Sometime in my early years of working for the Catholic Church, I developed the attitude that it was unnecessary for me to make confession. In my ignorance, I believed that God was going to give me some sort of free ride through life because I worked for the Church. I certainly understood the doctrinal and theological principles of reconciliation, but I didn’t think they applied to me.
After 5 or 6 years of doing this, I began to realize that I might be wrong…
At that point, however, I also realized that I had begun to forget what sin even was. As I continued to avoid confession, I began to read some of the writings of the church fathers and other significant figures in church history. It became frighteningly clear to me that I was treading in dangerous waters, and I needed to reform.
My next step, however, still wasn’t confession. I did everything I could to avoid sin. I also stopped receiving the Eucharist. Although my awareness of my actions did result in me sinning less, I was gaining nothing by avoiding yet another Sacrament. Despite everything I knew about the seal of confession and the beauty of the Sacrament, I still forced myself to stay away.
I finally gave in…it was the day before Easter. I printed out a list of what I was supposed to do, and drove to a not-so-nearby Church where I would know no one. Upon entering, I took a few moments to pray, and then entered the Reconciliation Room. I began my confession and, as I said my mortal signs aloud, I knew that this was the first and only time that I had ever truly faced them, both by myself and with God. I confessed the sins which were most pressing to me, and, at the end of my confession, the priest spoke some of the most beautiful words I had ever heard spoken. He said:
“You know that you have a Father who loves you, no matter what may happen. The Sacrament which was lost to you has now been restored.”
After I completed my penance, I reflected on the priest’s reference to the Eucharist as something which was lost to me. Although I did stop receiving it while I was in a state of mortal sin, I had not thought of it that way. It truly made sense, though. Through my sin, I personally chose to be disobedient to God, and that choice meant that although he never left my side, there was nothing I could do outside of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to restore myself to a right relationship with him. And now that I had realized that, I didn’t hesitate to allow it to have a proper role in my life.
I also began to truly understand perfect contrition and how valuable it is. With imperfect contrition, we are motivated to confession because of our fear of God. It is understood to be our most basic response to sin, so it is all that is necessary for confession. Perfect contrition, however, is the motivation to confess because of our love of God. For me, this has been a powerful tool to help me avoid sin. Through perfect contrition, sin is seen as an unloving act. If it is written onto my heart to love God, then how could I ever sin?
Of course, I still do fall into sin. But I now go to confession regularly. It has truly become a joyful experience for me. And I always remember that I have a Father who loves me, no matter what may happen.