07 September 2007

Back in the confessional again

It was the eve of the first Friday in September, so I went to confession. I always like to go Thursday night before First Fridays since I seem to remember to go at this time, whereas I usually forget on the weekends. I think it has something to do with running around with the kids. Although I go to confession about once a month, I don't really like going. I love how I feel as the priest gives absolution and my Guardian Angel is tickled pink that his kicking me in the seat of the pants paid off, but the process of examining my conscience and confessing is awkward, probably because no one likes to look at the dirt they have hanging on their souls and admitting they are weak and a sinner. Learning humility is never easy. However, I did start reading, The Imitation of Christ, and it is wonderful. Here's a quote:

As long as we live in this world we cannot be fully without temptation, for, as Job says, the life of man upon earth is warfare. Therefore, every man should be well on guard against his temptations, and watch in prayer so that his spiritual enemy, who never sleeps but always goes about seeking whom he may devour, may find no time or place to deceive him.

There is no man so perfect or so holy in this world that he does not sometimes have temptations, and we cannot be fully without them. Though they be for a time very grievous and painful, yet if they are resisted they are very profitable, for by them a man is made more humble and is purified and instructed in various manners which he would never have known save through the experience of such temptations. All the blessed saints who are now crowned in heaven grew and profited by temptations and tribulations; those that could not well bear temptations, but were finally overcome, are held perpetual prisoners in hell.

The Never Ending Story
Again, I confessed the same sins as I did the last time I went, and the same as the time before that. I know this is typical, but it can be frustrating and discouraging. The last time I went to confession, the person ahead of me was in the confessional for a long time. I thought that they must’ve really had a laundry list of sins. When a pious nun emerged from the confessional, I was humbled. How could this saintly nun have more to confess than I did? Didn’t I do a thorough Examination of Conscience? What was I missing?

Tonight I had pretty much the same litany of sins to confess. I’ve gone to this priest before for confession, but not too frequently. He isn’t the priest I had been going to, but lately they keep switching priests at my parish so finding a regular confessor has been a challenge, not that I ever really get more from the priest than my penance and absolution. The problem I have at the confessionals in my parish is that they don’t have solid doors so the priests want you to talk softly so that others standing or kneeling outside don’t over hear your confession. I have hearing loss, mixed in with a bad case of persistent tinnitus, so I can’t hear a darn thing while in the confessional. Tonight I was straining my head so close to the screen to hear Father that I (loudly) bonked right into it, probably stunning Father and making me cringe.

Many people seek to flee temptation and fall the more deeply into it, for by merely fleeing we cannot win the victory, but by humility and patience we may be made stronger than all our enemies. He who merely flees the outward occasions and does not cut away the inordinate desires hidden inwardly in his heart shall gain little; temptation will easily come to him again and grieve him more than it did at first. Little by little, with patience and fortitude, and with the help of God, you will sooner overcome temptations than with your own strength and persistence. In your temptation it is good often to ask counsel. It is good not to be severe on any person who is tempted; rather, be glad to comfort him as you would be glad to be comforted.

The beginning of all evil temptations is inconstancy of mind and too little trust in God. As a ship without a rudder is driven hither and thither by every storm, so an unstable man who soon leaves his good purpose in God is variously tempted. Fire proves gold, and temptation proves the righteous man.

Many times we know not what we can bear, but temptation shows plainly what we are, and what virtue is in us. It is necessary at the beginning of every temptation to be well aware, for the enemy is soon overcome if he is not allowed to enter the heart, but is resisted and shut out as soon as he attempts to enter.

Story of my Life
Oddly, Father said I did a good examination, which might’ve just been his way to end the awkward pause when I lost my train of thought, but I wish the priests would give me a little feedback. I know they are too busy to chit-chat and we have signs up (or used to) that you should confess only sins and omit all unnecessary chatter, but often times I do think mentioning mitigating factors does matter since it speaks to intent/consent. I like the following quote because it helps to remind me to pick myself up again, even though I commit the same sins over and over and over. Seems like it all comes back to humility.

Therefore, we shall not despair when we are tempted, but shall the more fervently pray to God, that of His infinite goodness and fatherly pity He may vouchsafe to help us in every need; and that, according to the saying of St. Paul, He may so go before us with His grace in every temptation that we may be able to bear it. Let us, then, humble ourselves under the strong hand of Almighty God, for He will save and exalt all who are here meek and lowly in spirit.

In temptations and tribulations a man is proved, and how much he has gained is shown, and his merit is thereby the greater in the sight of God, and his virtues the more openly manifest. It is no great marvel if a man is fervent and devout when he feels no grief. But if he can suffer patiently in the time of temptation or other adversity and, despite it, stir himself also to fervor of spirit, it is a token that he will advance greatly thereafter in virtue and grace. Some people are kept from any great temptations, and yet are daily overcome in little and small occasions; that happens because the great goodness and patience of God would keep them in humility, so that they will not trust or presume of themselves, since they see themselves daily overcome so easily and in such little things.


Cville40Days said...

I completely sympathize with how awkward it is in confession...I'm still not sure if I'm "doing it right" (converted 2 Easters ago).

I heard a priest on Catholic radio say how his parishioners have never gotten past the "1st reconciliation" laundry list of sins (I did X 3 times, Y ten times...). But how do we get past that? As soon as I take a breath to gather my thoughts and see if I left anything out, Father is already giving me absolution. It's like I have to spit the sins out of my mouth faster than Jesus spits lukewarm souls out of His or else boom! Confession is over.

I thought we were supposed to get into the motivation behind the sins since many are manifestations of the same Big Sin (pride, gluttony, etc). Hmmm...I guess at my parish serious confessees have to make private appointments. Which still weirds me out even more, since I'm in the priest's office...

swissmiss said...

Congrats on your conversion. I always find people's conversion stories fascinating.

I never have really done the X number of times for sins since mine are usually the same. I start out with the usual, "Here are my sins..." and if I have anything different from the last time, this is where I mention it, other wise I say something along the lines of "My habitual sins of X, Y and Z." I include adjectives like occasional sin of or frequent sin of, but since I'm confessing the same sins over and over, I just say they are habitual because I could never count the number of times I lose my temper even on a daily basis!!

A priest who had been at our parish had a reputation of being an excellent confessor, but all I ever got from him, even after having gone to him for years, is my penance and absolution. Made me wonder if I was doing something wrong since I never got any advice or ideas on how to get past the persistent sins. I did go to one priest at our parish who did question me about how much time I spent in prayer, so that was helpful. Another good priest used to give a number of recommendations, like wear a scapular, etc., but all the things he mentioned I was already doing.

Maybe priests should talk more from the pulpit about how to do a good confession.

Ma Beck said...

WOW - a sign chastising penitents for unnecessary conversation??

Wa-pchhhhhht! Wa-pchhhhht!

(That was the sound of a whip cracking, by the way.)

I think a good confessor will always try to give a bit of advice, and you're right - they should speak from the pulpit on the subject of how to make a good confession.
That's a lot of pressure!

Sanctus Belle said...

Did you read my thoughts? Your post here I feel I have lived and continue to live, a very common Catholic "problem" it seems. Sometimes I go to confession ONLY because I know I should. I never go because I WANT to. Who wants to confess?? Seems odd, but the cleaness afterward is priceless. Our feelings don't matter a whit - its our actions. You gain more merit for obeying when you don't feel like too - remember that!

swissmiss said...

The sign wasn't meant to be mean and probably needs a little clarification. The good priest who's confessional it was in, Father A's, was a very popular confessor and used to have LONG lines of people waiting for confession. In order to get all the folks in, I think he needed to cut down on the folks who use the confessional as a place to ramble on about their lives and things not pertinent to confession. For me, the last person I want to be dumping on is a priest, but many folks do.

swissmiss said...

I agree and go to confession because I mentally know the graces and benefits of it, but I feel like I should be making progress in eliminating these habitual sins! Granted, I can see improvements in many areas just in the past year, but the areas I really want to improve in are still my biggest weaknesses!! Ugh!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: Father A was one of my favs too-before he "moved"

Anyway, sometimes you get advice and commentary sometimes you don't.

I'm a fairly frequent Confessor. I actually look forward to going. Sounds crazy? I crave that feeling of relief that you described. That feeling you get when you know you are "clean".

I went last night too.

FYI: Fr. Welzbacher's parish, St. John in St. Paul has a hearing aid amplifier in one of the Confessionals. Father usually uses the Confessional on the right side of the church. As you face the Confessional, the "booth" on the left has it. You know, Father W is usually not hard to hear. He has that booming voice that I'm sure you remember.

:o) said...

Once I went through the catechism to do an examination of conscience. I had to write everything down. I was bawling. Probably a little over scrupulous. I am very lucky to have a wonderful confessor, although he has laughed at me a couple times. I like going. I go face to face. It is very hard and very humbling, but I need that.
Thanks for your prayers, they help.

Terry Nelson said...

Missie- Where are your quotes from? Did I miss it in the text?

Actually, for the ordinary Catholic - like us - Confession is where we should be getting our ordinary spiritual direction from. (Homilies are the other source.)

The number and kind thing is part of it, especially for mortal sins, (I committed murder twice in the last week.) if you neglect the numbers the priest may ask, how many times etc.. I think.

swissmiss said...

Wow! I was gone over the weekend and you got a face lift or something! As Freddy Prinze used to say, "Looking good!"

Sorry for not providing a better reference for the quote. It is from:
The Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis), Book 1, item 13, page 44-47 (Of Temptations to be Resisted).

Since you don't ever come back to visit, I don't know if you'll get this. Hope you get it!

If I have mortal sins, I do say the number and that is the first sin(s) I would mention. Otherwise, it is the frustrating sins I always confess without providing a number. I've never had a priest ask for clarification since I do think I provide enough that they can understand the state of my soul...sort of. Maybe they can, because I can't ;}

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the info on the confessional at St. John's. May have to check into their confession times and head over there. But, Father Welzbacher is one priest I have never had a problem hearing at all! Miss him at St. A's