Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Good Soul Cleansing

I went to our parish's Advent penance service and to the sacrament of Reconciliation this evening. It is important to have a good soul cleansing once in a while. The last time I went was 8 months ago. Before that, it had been four years! I'm trying to get back in the habit of going more regularly.

Getting up the nerve to go to confession always take some work. Even tonight, standing in line, I was sweating. There is something incredibly humbling about baring your soul to another person. That is why going to penance services is wonderful. There is safety in numbers, and something comforting about watching all these other people of all ages and colors doing the same thing. You also have the opportunity to go to someone other than your parish priest. Somehow it is easier to talk to a stranger who you won't have to see on a regular basis!

But confession is also remarkably liberating. Non-Catholics always say that God himself forgives sins, and of course He does. There is something about going through the process of sweating, and listing your sins, saying your act of contrition, and hearing the words of absolution that makes you feel lighter than air. A young woman standing next to me in line was talking to her grandmother while we were waiting. She told her that every year when she goes to confession, she just asks for a fresh start. How wonderful that we have that opportunity! The sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a chance to begin again, to wipe clean the sins of our past, and to attempt to change.

For a wonderful discussion of the Sacrament of Confession, check out Lord Have Mercy by Scott Hahn. It is a great book and what convinced me to return to the sacrament after my four year absence.


Robin Munn said...

Being a non-Catholic myself, I'm a little uninformed about the confession liturgy. What are the words of absolution that the priest pronounces? Does he say, "Ego te absolvo" ("I absolve you"), or something else?

If it's the former, then I'd have a quibble with that, since I think that doesn't make it clear enough that it's God, not the priest, forgiving the sins. But my information may be very out-of-date, so I'd love to hear exactly what Confession involves in the Roman Catholic church.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Robin, Thank you for your question. As Catholics we believe that Jesus gave priests the power to forgive sins when he told his apostles; "What you loose here on earth will be loosed in heaven and what you hold bound will be held bound in heaven." So, Yes, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest says "I absolve you from all your sins in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen" but that power comes from God and not the man himself.

As I mentioned, Scott Hahn's book "Lord Have Mercy" is a wonderful discussion of the Sacrament of Reconciliation - he discusses its historical background - which actually goes back to Jewish tradtion, the process, and the reasons for it. In addition, he was a convert to the Catholic faith so he can speak from an outsider's perspective as well. You can probably get a copy through your local library system. I am certain it would answer many of your questions.

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