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Peace...And Reconciliation

posted Aug 10, 2008, 8:09 PM by Web Master   [ updated Aug 12, 2008, 10:03 AM ]

by Micky Wolf


I knelt alone in the pew.  Oh, there were many, many others about me, but they were seated randomly throughout the sanctuary of St. Paul Church.  Music played softly; notes and themes conducive to meditating and reflecting filled the air.  After awhile I raised my head from prayer, glancing to the main center aisle, my eyes meeting those of a friend who had come to participate in the Community Penance Service, December 12, 1999.  Words were unnecessary.  Actions were insignificant.  In a that brief moment of connection, each of us seemed united in communion with our Father, but were oblivious to the hundreds of other people moving quietly along isles to the various stations for individual confession.


Confession.  I have been a Catholic all my married life, almost twenty eight years.  That word and its historically significant connotations has created as many, or more, uneasy feelings and perceptions within my spirit than few other “religious” words could initiate.  Fear.  Unworthiness.  Rejection.  And maybe most importantly in recent years…indifference.  Yes, indifference. As I sat there in the pew, literally washed in the blessings of the gathering, I was only too fully aware that it had only been a few months earlier in August, that I had experienced the healing restoration of confession.  Why had it taken more than 10 years for me to realize all that awaited me in this sacrament?


My thoughts returned to that hot summer day.  I sat in my car, trembling in anticipation.  What would he [the priest] say?  What would I say?  In the recent weeks leading to this day I had experienced more pain than I could have ever imagined humanely possible. Memories of years of childhood abuse and the consequences of poor choices as a young adult had been shoved into the darkest recesses of my mind – until neither I, nor a loving God could allow them to exist in the darkness for another moment.  I knew that Jesus had walked side by side with me through this incredibly painful but healing time of my life.  Now, in His revelation to me, I knew this was one of the final personal acts of my will that could bring me into a peaceful restoration with our loving Father. 


I picked up my cell phone and quickly dialed a friend.  “I’m scared to death – I can’t do this – but I know I must!”  She hesitated, then in a firm, reassuring voice spoke…”go, go and meet with the priest…and you will find Him there with you also…” After a few words of prayer, I hung up, slowly setting the phone aside and getting out of the car.  One step in front of the other.  One step, then the next.  Every movement was a specific effort on my part.


His eyes were full of compassion and love, his voice soft and gentle.  Gradually, my trembling ceased as the priest said a prayer, then encouraged me to share what was on my heart.  The sentences and phrases I had tried to pull together before this moment had vanished somewhere back in the parking lot.  I began to speak…”Father, forgive me…” A few words, fragments of thoughts. Stated simply…from my heart.  The priest listened, then slowly raised his hands to bless me.  Somewhere in the midst of the peacefulness, he quietly gave me a sense of spiritual direction and prayers for my penance.  Why had I waited so long?  Why had I allowed fear and unworthiness, the feelings of my flesh and sin nature deceive me into believing there was something so unbearably uncomfortable about confession and reconciliation with my God and with my parish community?  It was then that I slowly began to realize my true sin of indifference had become far more deceiving than any other I may have stepped into.


The music continued.  The lines of people passing by the end of my pew moved slowly, but steadily.  It was as if God was giving me the personal opportunity to sense the individuality of each who had come to participate.  Tall people.  Short people.  Wide people.  Narrow people.  Young people.  Older people.  Each wonderfully unique.  Each coming to join in an experience of confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.  Each anticipating the presence of God in their personal few moments with priests who would later comment they could not remember when they had seen so many people participating in Communal Penance Services.  Praise the Lord!


I settled back into the seat. My eyes gazed on the altar and the crucifix, Mother Mary and St. Joseph.  What a blessed Advent and Christmas this year!  I could not recall when I had experienced such peacefulness and joy.  My prayer was that every single person who was present would experience the same sense of healing restoration.


Our season of Lent brings with it new opportunities to participate in this sacrament.  Many who may read this will not have experienced situations similar to mine, but maybe, some will share an awareness.  For those who have not, there will be other circumstances of pain and choices made in darkness.  Maybe the greatest barrier to coming to confession is, in reality, the sin of indifference.  Jesus loves you more than you can comprehend. He welcomes you in forgiveness of whatever you may have struggled to bury from His sight or yours.  Think about meeting with Him in this sacred, healing and restoring sacrament of our church.  He awaits your visit with open arms.


[Original Text December 26, 1999]