December 19, 2009

Once You Start You Can't Stop

The other day I posted about wearing a chapel veil. It took me back to the first time I, consciously, wore something over my hair in Church. [sound of wayback machine]

In 1995 I wondered in, like a stranger in a strange land, to the Holy Thursday Mass at St. Agnes in St. Paul. I was still a member of St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis but I was starting to “come back”. For about a year, I'd been lurking on Catholic forums and starting to read information that was forcing me to question my long held, and mostly inaccurate, beliefs about the faith.

Anyway, so here I was at St. Agnes, praying no one would act like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and point me out! I was a fairly prominent person at St. Joan's and was sure some folks who had been doing prayer incursions at St. Joan's were probably members of St. Agnes. In a lame attempt at blending in, I threw a shawl over my head. Yes, it was totally lame because not every woman there was "veiled" anyway and my efforts did not stem from anything heartfelt. I was scared. Also, the shawl was falling down. It was too long. Well, if you ever worn a veil you know how those first few times you are fidgeting with it. LOL! That's what it was like. I probably drew more attention to myself goofing around with the thing!

I arrived late as the Blessed Sacrament was already being carried to the Altar of Repose. Clackers, incence, Pange Lingua, baldacchino, Deacons (for the record the Host was carried to the Altar of Repose by a priest I came to know more about later but did not recognize at the time-Father "Z" Zuhlsdorf!) Needless to say, I did not know what was going on. I'd never seen anything like this before. Wait a minute, THESE were expressions of the Catholic faith? What the heck had I been doing? Processions I was used to involved dancing, tamborines, banners, singing, yelling, no Blessed Sacrament.

I didn't know what was going on but my inquisitive mind would not rest until I did. The terms in the paragraph above: clackers, baldacchino, Pange Lingua? I had no idea what to call any of that then. I learned it later. It was the first time I'd ever heard the Pange Lingua.

I only went that night because I'd heard they would have Adoration until Midnight. I had not planned (nor, honestly wanted to) catch any of the Mass. I was encouraged to believe the folks at St. Agnes were mutant freaks. Sorry, but that's where I was then. I had been participating in Adoration at another parish (the one I now call my home: St. Andrew) for a few months and was gaining much spiritual strength from the practice. So, I sat there in the pew after the Mass fidgeting with my shawl. Praying in the dark before the Altar of Repose. Many were there. I was surprised to see teenagers praying before the Altar. When I was their age, well, I could've been somewhere else.

I was there for a few hours. As I left, I observed the Confessional lights were on (Frs Altier and Welzbacher were open for business). I walked right past but I almost stopped and went in. I left. I was ashamed. Why? Back in January, I had to put my old cat to sleep. It was really hard on me. I made a "deal" with the Lord that if He would help me thru the difficult time, I'd go back to Confession. Here, nearly, 4 months later, I still had not lived up to my promise.

About a week later (Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday)-the same day Blessed John Paul II passed on. I went back to Confession after 15 years away from that Sacrament. I went to St. Andrew-my current parish. Confession acted like an enema upon my sins. I couldn't stop. Once I went back, I couldn’t stay away. I went often. Sin poured like vomit out of my mouth. I couldn’t hold it back, nor did I want to. When you are drunk on sin, you feel better when you disgorge it.

In the holiest seasons of our liturgical year (clue: we are in one now), it is a good practice to ready yourself for the holy solemnities approaching. The end of the calendar year is packed full of blessings: The Nativity of Our Lord, Feast of St. Stephen, Feast of the Holy Family, Feast of the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket, Vigil of Mary Mother of God. And that's just thru December 31st!!!! Wait, there's more; Epiphany awaits! To wax simplistic: would you go to a party and NOT be ready? Ready yourself to celebrate to the fullest by being properly prepared to receive the Holy Eucharist! Ready your soul. Go to Confession.

If you are scared, Father is going to "yell" at you: I've never known a Confessor to be less than overjoyed that I'm there. Even the 'severest' of priests is happy to be there and delighted, in his heart, that you are there too! Is Father going to jump up and do a little dance? Probably not (well, maybe later in the Rectory), but their calling is to bring souls to Christ and the Sacrament of Confession is a powerful help to them in their ministry.

Just a short while ago, I was in my basement waiting for the washer to stop so I could put more clothes in the dryer. I looked around the basement and, out loud, gave thanks to God. I thanked God for the many blessings He has given me, His often unworthy servant. The gift of a home. The gift of a job. Earlier in the day, I was cursing out loud and took the Lord's name in vain because a window shade fell out of the brackets again. I'm telling you my cat, Sodak, supposedly a dumb animal, has a better sense of the joy of Advent than I do. I was ashamed. The Lord has given me so many gifts and I repay Him by cursing His name and being angry and frustrated over something completely stupid.

So, you better believe I'll be taking the opportunity to go to Confession soon. I like to be as ready as possible before the holy days. Every Sunday is a holy day too!

What better gift can you receive, or give yourself, than the gift of repentance and forgiveness?


Blogger Unknown said...


Thank you for your posts this Advent. They have been very inspiring and probably one of the reasons that maybe for the first time since high school that I have been "doing things" for Advent [reading the Bible intensively and doing a 13 day Ignatian Retreat on EWTN].

In return I'd like to reward you with an invitation to the 21st century.

When I noted that you were starting to return to the Church back in "1995", I suspected that you had been using your Julian or Zoroastrian Calendar.

Then when you mention the death of Venerable John Paul II (Huzzah!!!!!), I knew that you surely were calendrically. confused.

Maybe it seems like fourteen years since you started coming back to the faith, but it probably has been only about four years.

Or was there a lot of compressed data in there that I didn't decipher?

December 19, 2009 1:30 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: Well, faith is a lifelong journey, right? So, I'm sure I was 'coming back' for longer than the last 4 years. However, it's probably only in the 4 years that I feel like I've obtained clarity or a sort.

December 19, 2009 2:04 PM  
Blogger Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

Beautiful! Inspiring! Full of God!
Sorry, I'm getting carried away...but really, this post is just so absolutely filled with God's love and presence and your humble response.
When someone says to me "Father, it's been ages since I went to confession", I say something on this order:"The angels are rejoicing; the Lord is so pleased you are here."
And I mean it.
Because I am a sinner who knows that other sinners need Him as much as I do.
And I am very, very happy when they return after many years to receive His absolution, blessing and healing.
A blessed preparation for Christmas to ya', deary.

December 19, 2009 2:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Definitely a lifelong journey, Cath!

I had my "Road to Damascus" event in September of 1981 and went to Confession for the first time in 21 years or so and started attending Mass at the Basilica and St. Olaf's. Then SJA until Fr. Egan retired 1992.

Then it was over to St. Olaf's for a time where I still dabbled in centering prayer and stuff like that for a long time.

But I was still a big sinner and had a couple long relapses to paganism in that period.

Then I went to the Basilica in about 1996 or so and things started to get better. I joined their Spiritual Journey Group in the late 90s. But still a sinner.

Maybe about 2002 or so I discovered Catholic Answers Forum and played there for a time. My posts are still up there. But still a sinner.

Probably in 2005 I discovered blogging and began Stella in March of 06. And still a sinner.
But getting better, bit by bit, I pray.

Like you I have a list of confessionals, kinda like gas stations. When you need one, it had better be the closest one that's open.

December 19, 2009 3:02 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Father JM: Thank you.

Ray: Welcome home.

December 19, 2009 4:11 PM  
Blogger Adoro said...

Great post.

Oh, and it's Pange Lingua, not Linqua. :-) At least as far as I know but I'm often wrong. Always check the details especially if I'm advancing them!

December 19, 2009 7:28 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

D'oh! See how much I don't know. Yes, I had a typo in there.

December 19, 2009 7:50 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

I'm so happy you got that straightened out - the pange tongue thing. How embarrassing.
But anyway - hon - I'm really and truly verklempft. My conversion happened at St. Agnes too. 1972. I know!

Beautiful post. BTW - Fr. Z and Fr. Altier are the best confessors I ever had - oops - forgot Fr. Baer - he is sensational.

"You're a good woman mum - oh, a little odd, but a good woman!" - Nora Muldoon

December 19, 2009 9:29 PM  
Blogger X said...

Cath, you wrote, "Confession acted like an enema upon my sins. I couldn't stop. Once I went back, I couldn’t stay away. I went often. Sin poured like vomit out of my mouth. I couldn’t hold it back, nor did I want to. When you are drunk on sin, you feel better when you disgorge it."

Absolutley masterful phrasing. Thank you.

December 19, 2009 10:38 PM  
Blogger Larry Denninger said...

Great post, Cathy. I love confession. And because I went on Friday, I`m looking forward to receivng Holy Communion worthily today.

And I totally get the cursing thing! We can be sooooo stupid sometimes. I am constantly in awe at the depth of God`s mercy and patience, and ever mindful of His justice.

Have a blessed last week of Advent!

December 20, 2009 6:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Angela is correct, Cath!

Your "confession quote" belongs in Bartlett's Book of Catholic Quotations.

And on a lot of bathroom mirrors!

December 20, 2009 6:56 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

When my brother was little, making probably his second or third confession, from the confessional we suddenly heard yelling and my brother came out in tears.
What had happened? He'd forgotten some of the Act of Contrition, and Father threw him out after yelling at him.

I don't believe my brother ever went back, and to this day, he's a fallen-away Catholic at age 40.

Sorry for the buzz-kill.

I am surrounded by good confessors, but the most interesting one I ever had was a soul reader who is now deceased.
My husband, friends, and I never failed to come out of his confessional stunned, shocked, but smiling ear to ear as we couldn't wait til after Mass to tell each other (in generic terms of course) what amazing things had happened that day with Father.
I miss him still, so very much.

December 20, 2009 9:48 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thanks all!

Cathy: I'm sorry. That's terrible. I'll pray for your brother today.

December 20, 2009 11:47 AM  
Blogger Nan said...

I have three veils now. But haven't felt inspired to wear them.

December 20, 2009 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

I went to confession, on the Feast of Christ the King,after many, many decades away from the church. I went with fear and trembling in my heart. I had the good fortune of confessing to an old Jesuit.I wept though the confession and through Mass. I left with such joy.

December 20, 2009 5:11 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Nan: Three veils? Wow. You are on your way! :-)

Maria: Praised Be Jesus Christ!

December 20, 2009 5:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Welcome back home, Maria!

I'll have you in my prayers.

December 20, 2009 6:23 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

Cathy, keep in mind that I haven't felt inspired to do anything more than rescue them from thrift stores.

December 20, 2009 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

Thanks Ray. Attn all veil wearers: I am old enough to remember having to wear one!

December 20, 2009 10:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If I'm not getting too personal, Maria, the real question should be:

Are you old enough to remember having to wear a hankie clipped with a bobbie pin (sp.?) to your hair if you had forgotten your hat or babuschka?

Or, the ultimate shame, having to similarly clp a Kleenex to your hair?

December 21, 2009 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Maria said...

Ray: I remember OTHER women doing that but, women in MY family? Never.

December 21, 2009 12:22 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

My mom talks about going to Mass as a "Lake Isquagema tourist" in the summer; hankie on her head, with blouse and pedal pushers.

December 21, 2009 10:12 PM  

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