Do you avoid confession?

confessionIf you don’t mind, I’d like to take a bit of a break from #40DayChallenge to share a special announcement.

Today over at “Reconciled to You” Allison Gingras is hosting the monthly BLOG HOP.

If you have ever dreaded heading into the sacrament, you might join the hop and meet some kindred souls.

At Extraordinary Moms Network, I recall my first experience with confession in which I argue with the priest.

At her blog “Single Mom Smiling,” Strahlen says:

I may never be as pure as Saint Faustina, as sacrificing as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as selfless as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, as strong as Saint Joseph, or as unstained as Mary, but that’s not who I am called to be. I am called to be me … but closer to God than I thought I could be.

Meanwhile, at “Reconciled to You,” Allison posted this lighthearted moment at “Confession of a Confession Chicken.” She writes:

I blessed myself and jumped right in. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been about 6 months since my last confession and here are my sins.”  Only a few into my list when the priest interjected, “excuse me are you the woman who has come to start the new youth group.”   Um, crap. I was. Now what?

I felt like I had 2 options –YES options. One, I could lie. Then start back my confession with, “I lied one time just now to you,” or I could go the more sensible route, own up to the fact I have a very recognizable voice (I refuse to believe those screens don’t actually hide my identity), and get on with it.

That one made me chuckle … and was pretty consoling. No matter how bad my “laundry list,” I have yet to have a priest call me out by name!

Do you have a favorite confession story? Share it here!

31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 11: Forgive the Unforgiving

confessionalI love my job, working with authors to help them express themselves with eloquence and creativity. An editor is part coach, part taskmaster, part encourager, part critic, and part intercessor. At its best, the author-editor relationship is based on trust and mutual respect.

Of course, once in a while — thankfully, only rarely — something goes wrong. A misunderstanding occurs, or an ego gets bruised. In one memorable instance in my career, an author complained to my boss about me so vociferously, I could have lost my job. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so shocked and betrayed; just days before, we had been together and she had thanked me for the work I had done on her project.

For weeks I puzzled over the injustice. How could I have so completely misread the situation? In the end, I decided to forgive; the author’s actions, though ignoble, had ultimately induced me to try something new. I wrote her a note, letting her know that I harbored no ill-will. (She did not reply, but I was at peace.)

Choosing love and choosing forgiveness is never a wasted effort. Life isn’t always fair. Good guys don’t always win, and bad guys don’t always get caught right away. But forgiveness levels the playing field in important ways. We may never know how that choice affects other people, but we can be absolutely sure it will help us.

To be honest, I haven’t always taken the high road. I’ve harbored resentments and wasted hours of precious sleep, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation — at work, at home, or with relationships with extended family members. Each time I’ve decided to “forgive the unforgivable,” God has changed the landscape of my heart, forging paths, building bridges, and leading me beside peaceful, rejuvenating waters. I’ve also discovered . . .

*  Forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. Every day, another step.

*  Forgiveness is best expressed in words. Hearing the words spoken aloud (to the one you’re forgiving, in confession, or reading a letter aloud to an empty chair) often “breaks” the power of resentment or bitterness in a way that simple mental assent may not.

*  Forgiving ourselves can be the most difficult part of the process — and the most necessary. Try to give yourself as much latitude as you would give your best friend, if she had done the same thing.

*  Forgiving and feeling goodwill toward those who have hurt us are two very different things. Yet feelings are not facts, and sometimes negative emotions like resentment and bitterness need to be forcibly uprooted. Praying can be a good way to release residual anger. If that is not possible, try praying to be willing to pray for that person. Spiritual health, like physical health, is a matter of small choices, made daily.

Whom do you need to forgive this week?

 

 

How to Get Rid of Impatience

catholic crossThis week I found myself over at “Whispers in the Loggia” and came across Rocco Palmo’s post dated May 21, 2013 containing the homily of Pope Francis, who spoke of his personal encounter of faith.

In his own warm and personable way, Pope Francis recalled receiving the personal challenge of his “Nona” (grandmother) to follow Jesus — and later encountering a priest at his local parish, who was waiting to receive his confession. “He had been waiting for me for quite some time,” said the Holy Father. He would never forget it — and it had a profound effect upon his decision to become a priest.

I smiled as I thought of this confessional encounter, remembering my own encounter with Jesus last weekend, an unexpected gift that I found in a poor old parish in downtown Reading. To be honest, I had gone in not expecting anything remarkable, going through my laundry list of faults and sins. Again and again I found myself saying the same word: impatience. Impatient at home. Impatient at work. Impatient with my family.

“You know the best way to get rid of impatience, don’t you?” came the voice from the far side of the screen.

“Tell me, Father.”

“Not by praying for patience … That only brings more challenges. You can ask for perseverance, and that will help. But the most IMPORTANT thing you can do is fast.”

“Fast? From food?”

“From food, from radio, from television. Like at Lent. When we fast, it reminds us that we are not in charge of our lives. It puts our own will in the back seat, and allows Jesus to take the driver’s seat. Fast, and you will find your impatience disappear.”

In that moment, a light went on. It was a timely gift. In that moment, I knew Jesus had been waiting to give it to me.

The Good Shepherd (The Love Project – Guest Post by Elizabeth Schmeidler)

After posting “The Priest Who Loved Me” series in The Love Project, a new reader contacted me and asked if she could share her confession story. Enjoy!

Just last year, during Advent, I was determined to make a good confession—I wanted to have my heart completely ready for the coming of baby Jesus. I called up to the friary and asked to speak to a priest who would hear my confession by appointment. Father Canice, a 90-something year old priest agreed to meet with me.

To be honest, after I had made the appointment, I wondered if I should cancel. My goodness…how unfair it would be to unload my hormonally-challenged self on a priest who was long past the age of retirement! Still, Father Canice seemed quite sincere when he said he’d be happy to hear my confession. In fact, I felt a connection to him through the phone line, much like I imagined I would feel if my own beloved father, now gone from me for almost 27 years, would have spoken to me.

I am so glad that I kept my appointment! It was like having my own father back—he even kind of looked like him. His smile was warm and his advice and comfort, soothing. I felt that I had found a friend…an advocate. When I got home that night, I wanted to give back to Father Canice an offering of encouragement for all he had done through his vocation; so I used the best way I know how…through my writing:

The Good Shepherd

On a cold wintry eve
Amidst the blustering wind,
You answered the door,
And let my sorrowed heart in.

With patience and kindness
You listened with care,
And in that space and time,
I knew Jesus was there.

A man of the cloth,
a heart filled with loving grace–
Your faithful service and calling
Make the world a gentler place.

One voice with a kind word,
One loving soul who truly cares,
Can ignite a smoldering fire of faith,
To consume sorrow and despair.

You may never quite know
Of the hearts you have reached
Through the Sacraments, Mass,
And countless homilies you’ve preached.

But each hurting soul you calmed,
Every single tear you dried,
Is known by the One Who called you,
The One Who walks at your side.

One day when you’ve finished
Your appointed race here on earth,
You’ll come into His kingdom–
See through God’s eyes, your worth.

You’ll be welcomed by saints and angels,
Rest in the embrace of the Holy One,
Amidst repentant souls whose sins you forgave
In the Name of the Spirit, the Father, and Son.

Thank you, faithful Priest, for answering the call,
For giving me comfort and peace.
And know that I will never forget
The loving kindness of Father Canice.

Elizabeth Schmeidler
12/21/2011
©2012

Elizabeth Schmeidler is the author of The Good Sinner
schmeidler bk

The Confession (The Love Project, Day 34)

confessionalToday I was editing an essay by Father Mike Schmitz about what it’s like to hear confession. He observed that hearing confessions is one of his favorite parts of being a priest because he gets to witness people returning to God, to receive and respond to his love for them.

He has a point. Not long before I was married, I remember driving out to an old country parish. The church had seen better days. The floorboards were noticeably lighter than the pews, from so much foot traffic. A wisened old priest slowly made his way into the middle compartment of the ancient old confessional.

There was no one else in the sanctuary, which was just fine with me. I figured I was going to in there for a while. I was fairly inexperienced as confessions went, and I figured that — since I was getting married — this would be the time when I “cleared the slate” on some old business. A good deal of it wasn’t, technically speaking, sinful. More like “baggage” – the accumulated baggage of close to two decades of single adulthood. Heartache. Brokenness. Regret. Anxiety. I’m not sure how long I was there, getting it all off my chest. But when i stopped speaking . . . there was silence on the other side of the screen. Nervously I waited. Had I shocked the elderly priest? Or had he falled asleep?

As it turns out, neither. “Oh, my daughter,” he began. With a voice full of gentle compassion, he reminded me of the Father who had never left me alone, who had seen my struggle and wept with me in my pain.

Then he blessed me, and sent me off to begin my new life with Craig. There were still plenty of bags to unpack, but the messiest ones were in the hands of God.

Today’s Love in Action: Do you have any relational regrets that you cannot seem to let go of? A clean slate is only a confession away!

Weekend Ponderings: Mercy Sunday

auschwitz

What do the Catholic Writers Conference Online, Auschwitz, Servant of God John Paul II, and confessionals have in common? They all make me think of one of my favorite feasts of the year, Mercy Sunday.

At CWCO 2009 this year, Danielle Bean talked about comments she gets from women who disapprove  her choice to combine her vocation inside the home with her work as editor of Faith and Family. That this homeschooling mother of eight manages to find a spare minute to do everything else she does is nothing short of remarkable … and yet she freely admits that she is sometimes taken aback when other moms criticize.

“Women are way too quick to tear each other apart. I think a lot of that comes from pride and insecurity. If I am confident that what I am doing is best for my family, I need to embrace it … And then the ‘snippy’ people can’t even touch me.”

Ironically, it is Christian women — those who have experienced for themselves the boundless grace of God in their own lives — who can be hardest both on themselves and on one another. We are quick to criticize, and slow to see when a sister in Christ needs nothing so much as a word of encouragement. In no time, we become imprisoned by the combined weight of a thousand assumptions, impressions, and assertions … all of which can be released with a single timely word of grace.

And so, in honor of Mercy Sunday I’d like to take a moment to recall a time in my life when I experienced this unexpected brush with grace, in the last place some Catholics expect to find it … in a confessional. The article, “Tender Mercies,” was originally published by Canticle magazine in 2007, examines the origins of Mercy Sunday, and affirms the sacramental graces that are available to those humble enough to ask for them.

Weekend Ponderings: Motherly Solitude

play-timeTonight as Sarah and I were getting the kids ready for bed (all of us in one hotel room, which means that I am writing this in the dark as four exhausted kidlets and my co-adventurer slumber blissfully in their beds), I managed to twist my bad ankle. Again. And yet, like a goose I kept right on doing what I had been doing before I hurt myself. I think I was getting somebody some cough medicine, or lovey, or some other such life-or-death errand.

“You know, I COULD do that for you,” Sarah pointed out. And of course she was right. I could have retired to my bed and let her run around on her two perfectly good feet. Instead I gritted my teeth and soldiered on. What a dummy!!!

After I finally settled in bed that night, I recounted the story to Sarah about getting my crutches from the basement. I posted about this at “Mommy Monsters” the other day. What I did not mention in the story was the inner dialogue that took place before I actually hobbled downstairs for the crutches. For about ten minutes, I wracked my brain to think of someone I could call to come over and get those crutches for me … Someone I didn’t mind seeing the carpet full of puppy shrapnel (garbage bag bits, pieces of rawhide, assorted spongy toy bits), last night’s dinner dishes still on the kitchen counter, and a whole basement full of … well, let’s just say a basement full, and leave it at that.

I couldn’t think of a single person. Not one. Those I knew well enough to call either worked or lived FAR away, and those I knew casually … I didn’t have their phone number to “promote” them. So I got the blasted things myself.

“What does that say about me,” I asked Sarah, “that I don’t have any close friends to call at a time like this?”

“I think it means you’re like the rest of us,” said my good friend. “I have one person I could call if I had been in your situation, and when her husband told her they might have to move, I told HIM he might have to take me along, too. Most of my really good friends are online …”

I felt a little better then, but still I knew that this little red flag, popping up as it has so close to Lent, signals a character flaw that needed some attention. The problem was my idiotic pride, not wanting anyone to see the house in such a state. I mean, if someone had called ME to help after they had spent two days trying not to walk, I wouldn’t expect House Beautiful.

The funny thing is … it’s part of womanly human nature to help, to come alongside, to support. It’s infinitely easier to do that … than to ask for help. Even when we know it’s the right thing to do.

When was the last time you felt you needed help … and were too embarrassed/shy/self-conscious/fill in the emotion to do so? If you had it to do over … would you?

In today’s Gospel, from the eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus observes that those who are truly disciples are not those who stand on ceremony, or who are too proud to bend low and admit just how short of perfection they fall:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.”

In the Kingdom of God, those who labor to project a flawless, seamless image never get very far. However, those who are willing to let go of the things most precious to them (including their own reputations) in order to follow in the footsteps of our Master ….  leaning on Him all the way … attain the pathway to true perfection. “Saints,” we call them. 

Note to self:  Look for an opportunity this week to ask for a little help … exercise that humility muscle! The sacrament of reconciliation is a good place to start. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make a new friend along the way!