Welcome to the CatholicMom.com Book Club! We’re reading Don’t Forget to Say Thank You by Lindsay Schlegel.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, I’ve learned more about who God is in the seven years I’ve been a mom than in the 30 years before. So thank you, Lindsay Schlegel, for putting so many of my thoughts into words on a page. I found myself over and over again saying, “YES! That’s on point! This is mom life. This is exactly why I tell my sons to do this. And man … If I actually believe God is Abba Father, then He really, really loves me too.”
I’m not the person who runs to the confessional. I don’t go once a week or even once a month, and when I meet someone who does, I feel ashamed because I truly feel God’s graces overflowing every time I go. So of course, Chapter 11 “On Confession and Forgiveness: You Need to Say ‘I’m Sorry’” is the one that spoke most loudly to me.
How appropriate is it that we dig into this sacrament in “Chapter 11?” Chapter 11 … a form of filing for bankruptcy. I’ve known a few people who have had to declare bankruptcy and it’s a pretty humbling experience. They have to admit they are in trouble and offer up what they have (if anything) in order to have their debt forgiven. Isn’t that what we do in the sacrament of Reconciliation? We kneel before the Lord and say, “Here I am. I’ve fallen. I offer this failing to you and ask you to pardon it and help me start over.” The miraculous and merciful difference is that actual bankruptcy follows you for years. We know that’s not the case for God.
“It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” Isaiah 43: 25
I work in a ministry that reaches as many Protestant as it does Catholics, so I probably have more discussions about differences in our faith practices than the average girl in the pews. Of course the topic of confession comes up pretty frequently and now I think I want to hand this book to the next person who asks WHY we confess our sins to a priest. Why not just confess to God directly?
Well, I’ll tell ya, when you have to look that priest in the face, or more likely, you try to disguise your voice so he doesn’t recognize you, it sure makes you think twice the next time you’ve got a toe in the water of temptation. I confessed one particular sin 8 years ago, mortified. Haven’t done it since! Praise God for this sacrament and His grace. But it’s deeper than having an ordained accountability partner; when I find myself struggling to explain, “Why confession?” I really want to say, “Why not?”
What did you think about the way Lindsay requires her kids to apologize to each other?
“The kids know they are to say the other person’s name and what exactly it is they’re sorry for. … Getting them to do it this way, to really stop and face the other…” (88)
It’s so easy for my sons to just mumble, “Soooorrrryyyy,” or shout it as they make a dash for the toy that’s now up for grabs. But to speak the person’s name, specifically acknowledge the offense and change their body position, that’s extra effort and it sends a stronger message to the one who’s been hurt. When we go to the sacrament of Reconciliation, we aren’t just adding on an, “I’m sorry” to the end of a nightly prayer (which we still SHOULD do!), we are speaking the offense aloud, taking our body to church and kneeling before a priest who is acting in the person of Christ.
And for those of us who don’t go often enough or only go when something is truly weighing on us, we would do well to remember Lindsay’s point that reconciliation is like “a vitamin, a supplement to take regularly in order to become who I am called to be.” (91)
Can we talk about broccoli for a sec? My seven-year-old will eat the trunks, but “No tree tops!” Now I have a motto at home that “I don’t negotiate with terrorists,” but this is something that I do budge on. Whatever it takes to get that green stuff in him (butter, cheese, powdered sugar … I kid, I kid … maybe). Meanwhile, my five-year-old downs broccoli like his life depends on it, like he needs it to survive. And truthfully, the nutrients in it and its colorful neighbors in the produce section are vital.
I don’t know if I pursue the sacrament of reconciliation as earnestly as I pursue that broccoli for my boys growing bodies. Too often I just think of it when I know I have a sin that is putting a divide between me and God. But confession is like that dose of Airborne, which my family basically takes via IV when there’s a bug going around; it gives that boost of energy and strength as well as heals what might be creeping around inside.
Lindsay’s final message and “title track” if you will, “Don’t Forget to Say Thank You” in Chapter 15 is so simple. I’m glad that’s where she finished her story of discovery. She’s right, I know how to say “Thank you” in more languages than any other word. And for some languages, it’s the only word I know.
“Even when our culture can’t agree on what’s good and evil, saying ‘thank you’ is considered basic human decency.” (119)
It is so basic that it must be important at a cellular, soul-level.
We force our kids to say it, “What do you saaay,” “Thaaaaank Youuuuuu,” not because we want them to be little robots who do what we say, but because we want them to realize the gifts in front of them. We know what’s best for them and hello … big picture here, God knows what’s best for us.
God wants us to be thankful not because He needs our praise, but because He knows that a thankful heart is a happy heart. And this simple act of being grateful really requires nothing else on our part. The gift has been given, we just have to BE. What a beautiful treasure we have in the Eucharist, “Thanksgiving” that all we have to do is come to him, declare our bankruptcy and receive the gift of his body with a grateful heart.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Think about how glad you are when your child offers you a sincere apology. How quickly are you willing to offer forgiveness? For me it’s almost immediate. I love them so much. How does this change the way you look at the frequency with which we should go to the sacrament of Confession? Any ideas on how can we challenge each other as a community to take advantage of this gift more frequently?
- In Chapter 12, Lindsay reflects on the gift of the liturgical calendar as God’s message that He is always on this journey with us. What ways do you try to breath in the seasons of the Church?
- What are some ways you try to practice gratitude? Is there a simple tip you can share that has helped you be more thankful or to not “forget to say thank you?”
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
And that’s a wrap for our Book Club! Thank you for reading and participating! For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Book Club page.
Copyright 2018 Abby Watts