My First Individual Confession in a LONG Time
2005 did not start well for me. In January, I had to put my beloved 18-year old cat to sleep. His kidneys were failing. I was completely devastated. The silence in my home without him was unbearable. He was a "talker" and, yes, I talk to my cats. I had not lived in my home without him. I felt terribly alone.
Beginning in mid-2004, I started reading some Apologetics literature and doing a lot of lurking on the Catholic Answers Forums. By late 2004, I was at the point where I knew I should go to Confession but I was afraid to.
After I put my cat down, I made a bargain with God. "Lord, if you get me thru this, I will go to Confession". It sounds poor but it is what I did.
It took me 4 months to go. I know it is recommended that if it has been a long time since your last Confession you should make a private appointment with the Priest. I did not have the courage to do that so I showed up during the regularly schedule Confession period at my neighborhood parish, St. Andrew.
At the time, St. Andrew was not my registered parish, even though it is less then 1 mile from my house. I was still registered at the parish, named after that French girl who heard voices, in South Minneapolis.
For at least one month I had been drifting back and forth between the south Minneapolis parish and St. Andrew's. I quit receiving Communion because, somehow, it had finally sunk in that I was not properly disposed.
I did not confess everything the first time. I went back several times over the period of one month. All the while I refused to go to Communion. I know, once you confess and are given Absolution "for these and all the sins of my life" you are technically covered. But, I did not feel like I was. To me, it was important to get it all out there.
I was afraid, not of the Priest. I don't think I was afraid of the Lord's Judgement either. I think I was afraid of myself, because I was afraid to speak of the all garbage and all the stupidity I'd done in my life "out loud". If I verbalized certain things I'd rather forget I did not think I could handle it emotionally. I was afraid I'd fall apart.
It's strange, but after all these cycles of Confession I KNEW when it was time for me to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord again. I had made a Confession and I was in the church before the Tabernacle fulfilling my Penance and I felt the last ring on the chain that had been around my neck fall to the ground. I started crying; clutching my late Mother's Rosary and crying.
When I particpated in the Eucharist at that Anticipatory Mass, for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I knew what it really meant. I finally "got it" and I was finally "worthy of it".
Notice I emphasized: 15 years since my last INDIVIDUAL confession. I was taught, by those that should know better, that General Absolution was a perfectly acceptable form of Confession and we don't need to go to Communal or Individual. I know now, that General Absolution is an acceptable form of Reconciliation, but only in what would be considered exceptional circumstances.
Honestly, I did not like the General Absolution services at my former parish (the French Girl one). They were only held twice/year (Advent and Lent) and I did not see any point to them. Individual or Communal Confession were never offered and were perceived as uneccessary. The word "sin" was an unmentionable word. Confession and repentence were bad words too. All were equated with guilt and shame--which are bad things. I was also told that since Vatican II we don't have to do a lot of that "old stuff" anymore. The "gospel" according to Matthew Fox was the guidebook.
After a while I quit going to the General Absolution services. If there really is no such thing as sin and thus no need for redemtion or forgiveness why waste my evening traveling across town to "ritual" and read Thich Nat Han? I walked out of those General Absolution "reconciliation" services feeling the same as I did when I got there. Oh, I did get to visit with my friends which was nice.
I feel sorry for people that are paralyzed by fear and don't know the catharsis that comes from a well-made Confession. I used to be that person.
I've heard some people say they are afraid to go back to the Confessional for various reasons. One of the reasons I've heard is: I don't think I can remember the Act of Contrition. For at least 2 months, I carried a "crib sheet" in with me and a pen flashlight in case it was too dark for me to read from it. I don't think if you preface your Confession with "it's been 2 to the power of x years since my last Confession", Father is going to think you are an expert on the Sacrament.
It has been my experience since I've been back, that Priests are delighted that you are THERE. You care enough to go. They are willing to help you. That's what they are there for. It's their job, it's their calling.
Now, I go to Confession about once every two weeks. Sometimes, I'm in the Confessional the very next day! I'm still a sinner but I accept that now and I know what I need to do. I don't know how I did without it for so long!
Confess, please. Trust me, you will feel better!