As a convert to the Catholic faith I wasn’t raised with all the practices and habit of Catholic life. I didn’t grow up with table blessings and rosaries and mass every Sunday. In my RCIA we learned about many of these but there is a difference between the abstract knowledge of something and the actual doing it.
The one thing I have been struggling with the most is Confession. I could probably write a book about the “hows” and “whys” of Confession, in theory it is a wonderful, spiritual and useful practice. But in theory, oh my, how difficult it is to start. It took me eight years to start going to confession.
My priest is someone very easy for me to talk to. So we had a very good “pre-confession” meeting where I explained my situation. Going through RCIA I was preparing for Baptism so I didn’t have to “do” Confession as some of my classmates did. Those who were coming in for Confirmation met all together during Lent and made a confession. My sins, being washed away at Baptism, didn’t ‘count’. I suppose I could have gone to Confession at that point, but it wasn’t required so I didn’t. After our Baptism we were left to our own path. Mine avoided the confessional all together. And it has eaten at me all this time.
I longed for Confession; I needed it. I could feel the block working against me and keeping me from progressing in my walk with Christ as completely as I should be. So finally I screwed up my courage and took the plunge and met with my priest and just did it. Yeah me.
The part I found the worst and best was the examination of conscience. This is by far the most difficult thing to do. I found it helpful to have the printed “help” so I could look at it, think about it. Sin isn’t about feeling guilty. It is perfectly possible to sin and feel no guilt at all. Feelings are not a good indicator of guilt. The human conscience is a malleable thing and I know that if I allow myself to do certain things or think certain ways those things begin to seem justified and eventually right no matter how objectively wrong they are. I need to compare my actions not against what I feel to be correct but to what is objectively right.
One of the saddest losses in the Post Vat II era has been Confession. My priest expressed it very aptly when he said that the “face to face” confession has been disastrous experiment. The confession is not supposed to be a heartfelt talk with a friend nor is it a counselling sessions, though I suppose it can have aspects of both. The confession should be the opportunity to reconcile oneself with God and with your own soul, your own better self.
In retrospect I really wish that my RCIA program had met longer after we were Baptised. I think I would have been helpful to have had a “First Confession” meeting about a month later. This would seem to me to be helpful for the newly Baptised Catholic. But I suppose that Reconciliation is one of those things that really isn’t in favor in the American Catholic Church. I have read several articles this year about how Confession is coming back into “fashion”. Some Dioceses are encouraging the laity to come back to the confessional with formal programs such as The Archdiocese of Washington’s program “The Light is on for You“.