My high-school decision to stop receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation was not dramatic—and perhaps that makes it all the more troubling.
I was sitting in the school chapel, silently noting that a male friend of mine—let’s call him Paul—had announced that he would no longer be going to Confession.
Well, if Paul saw no need—neither did I. Thus began my boycott of a true vessel of grace.
This choice did not, in any way, enhance my spiritual life. My prayers were reserved for school exams, relatives’ hospital visits, and the occasional Midwestern storm. What I now view as a senseless refusal of God’s mercy went on for more than a decade. I became increasingly secular, focused on college and career, turning to the Bible only for the occasional Lenten reading. Thankfully, I did attend Sunday Mass … most of the time. …
An epiphany occurred when my parents’ parish announced a Lenten retreat. For a reason I cannot explain (perhaps the prompting of the Holy Spirit?), I felt led to attend this event. Most of the attendees were much older than I—in fact, I think I was the youngest one there. One presenter spoke movingly of the Marian display she kept in her home. I have to confess this was a foreign concept to me at the time—I thought impressive displays of Marian artwork were reserved for church. Still, perhaps inspired by my patron saint, the Blessed Mother, I pondered these things in my heart.
The final event of the retreat was the offering of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was decision time for me. The confessional was not the dark box I remembered from my youth, but a setting with a more open layout. In other words, I was convinced the priest behind the partition could see who was coming and going. I knew I had reason to go to Confession—a pile of sins that had accumulated over more than ten years. But, after I had said my piece, what would the priest think of the girl in the pink coat?
Summoning all the courage I could muster, I darted into the Confessional and related my sins. I was mortified when I forgot the words to the Act of Contrition, but dear Father helped me along, and I was grateful for the absolution. I’m sorry to say it took me another six months to return to the Confessional—bad habits are tough to break. But since then, I’ve been what you might call a frequent flyer.
And I have been phenomenally blessed by regular Confession. I began putting more energy into my faith, sustained by regular reading of Scripture, spiritual classics, and the latest fabulous soul-nurturing finds.
I still wear a pink coat—after all, it’s my signature style—but I no longer fear the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I celebrate it, along with the Father who welcomes me back, again and again, into his tender embrace.
Is there anything that’s holding you back from becoming a more frequent recipient of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Copyright Maria V. Gallagher