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What I Needed to Hear in the Confessional


Fr Lawrence Lew OP-CC

Elizabeth Dye - published on 04/28/16

Sometimes my spiritual life feels like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.

“This is the worst time of day for confession service,” I seethed as I shambled everyone into the pew, went over the rubrics once again, and dared anyone to even try picking the putty from the stained glass once they got on line. “Nobody’s in the mood for this at 7 p.m.,” I finished.

But there I was. No matter how inconvenient it seems, I go to the seasonal penance service, always — kids in tow. The feeling of being in a church full of people waiting on God’s mercy is one that escapes words, and it’s the only time I get to watch my children’s beaming little faces right after they’re absolved, so I keep showing up.

As I eyed the 30 or so priests as they shuffled in, mostly Benedictine monks from the local abbey, I wondered who I would end up with and hoped for a monk. The Rule speaks to me, no matter how much I seem unable to apply it, and the gentle, practical guidance of a monk was surely what I needed.

I didn’t get a monk. Instead, I got an Irish priest, who put it to me straight: “Can ya do me a favor girl? Go home, sit in the quiet and calm your friggin’ mind for 10 minutes! Can ya just let God love ya, okay? Who said you’re supposed to have all the answers anyway!? Those belong to God! Less looking inward and more looking at him — do ya understand what I’m telling ya?”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that.

This past year, after years in Catholic school, we became a brand new, shiny home-schooling family. Almost everything in my day-to-day is new, except my sins.

Sometimes my spiritual life feels like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Just as one end of a spiritual discipline or a favorite sin seems shored up, another spot starts to leak, and one unforeseen consequence of taking the kids out of school was losing the tiny little adoration room off the side of the church, where I popped in for 15 minutes almost daily, right before carpool line — to be with him.

I missed it: the stillness, the prayer, the few precious minutes to myself. Even worse, the loss of daily adoration in my life was reflected in my treatment of others. Too often I was white-knuckling a thinly veiled charitable veneer — and failing. I had said adios to the gift of being fully present to those around me. I said not now to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit and hello to a shorter fuse.

Upon examination, I saw how the erosion had happened. When I stopped my regular visits to the Eucharist, I had stopped leaving all the little daily disappointments and hurts and even my self-will at the foot of the cross. When I stopped leaving my troubles with Jesus on a daily basis, pressures quickly built up; they leaked out or popped up in a hundred undesirable big and little ways.

Who said you’re supposed to have all the answers anyway!? Those belong to God!

In that confession, I learned again, as I had years ago, that the perfect remedy to stress, to a life of real blessings that we do not always have the strength to endure, is adoration. Before the Lord, in just a few short minutes, I’m able to empty my heart and mind completely — to abandon it all to Him. I can walk in feeling hopeless and alone and leave feeling loved and safe.

Can ya just let God love ya, okay? Less looking inward, and more looking at him.

Imagine! The prescription from that little priest — stillness, feeling God’s love, seeking God’s will and looking more to his Son, all fit in one place, that little room off the church!

My schedule doesn’t allow for daily adoration anymore, but a few times a week is more than doable. I’ve found myself grateful for what I had come to think of as a backslide. It’s left me even more aware of the need to abandon myself, and my faults, completely to him, every day. I will find my remedy in that tiny little room.

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