I left the confessional forgiven, and a little bit wiser thanks to a priest's insights
“It’s because you’re prideful,” he said, just like that—straightforward and blunt. His demeanor was friendly, though, and loving, as we sat there in the confessional.
It wasn’t really a traditional confessional; it was a makeshift confessional, created because the church I was visiting was having a special event for the Year of Mercy. Two folding chairs were squished into a tight space that was some kind of archaic side-chapel. There was recorded chant being pumped through the speaker system.
That weekend found me volunteering with my brother at a community youth theater production, and the church’s 24 Hours for the Lord confession event worked with the theater’s very late-night scheduling. So, I showed up to the church close to midnight, crossed myself, and started listing my faults and failures. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned …”
The sin I had just confessed, in the middle of my list, was arriving late for Mass on Sundays.
That’s when the priest told me I was prideful.
He was a young priest, with eyes that lit up behind his glasses.
He offered that it was probably my pride that kept me from getting to Mass on time; he suggested I probably thought that my schedule and tasks were more important than punctual Mass attendance. Still friendly, he smiled and asked if maybe I placed my responsibilities and self-importance at a higher place than my friends’ schedules … and, even, God’s timing.
I stared at him.
He was right. I had just never looked at it that way.
I finished confessing my list of falls. He gave me a penance, absolved me, blessed me, and I left the confessional, forgiven.
But still, the pride.
I had never thought of that before.
“The next time you’re getting ready for Mass,” he had said to me, “try to get there on time, even if it means your hair isn’t fully dried or whatever.”
I thought about this the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that. I was still late, sometimes, yes. But, other times, with this knowledge … I was just on time.
The other day I was remembering this experience, as I reflected on the Year of Mercy. When the jubilee was announced, I used the internet to jog my memory on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I planned on trying to accomplish a few of them. After all, isn’t that what we were invited to do by Pope Francis—to extend mercy?
I forgot, though, that I would have opportunities to experience mercy myself.
Honestly, one of the greatest acts of mercy I have seen this year was from that priest who told it to me straight.
One of the spiritual works of mercy is to “instruct the ignorant.” Obviously, this has to be motivated by and delivered with charity; and that was what I experienced that night, in a very profound way. A loving priest said to me, “Hey, this is the reason you keep screwing up,” and he was spot-on. And, because of his honest insights, I am able to more effectively address a flaw. Because of him, I have better tools for a healthier spirituality and life. He set me on a path that can free me from chains I had forged myself. What mercy.
Sinful habits and decisions do need to be addressed. And those very moments can be experiences of deep mercy, when executed properly and with care and concern.
I am grateful to that priest. I am grateful that he took the time to help me realize where I was falling, and how I could (through the grace of God) overcome that sin.
Through mercy, he lovingly pointed out an unhealthy habit in my life.
Through mercy, he offered me care-filled assistance.
Through mercy, all things are new.
Thanks be to God.
Danielle Center’s weaknesses include: wanderlust, fresh berries, and learning about new saints. Read more about her life, her faith, and her family at seashellnell.wordpress.com.
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