I can't recall my first Confession, but it took place in 1984 at St. Jude's in Fort Wayne. I have no idea how many times since then I've gone to Confession. I guess it's not something you keep a tally of, like visits to Wrigley Field or trips overseas. Is it 1,000 confessions? That seems a bit high, but maybe not. Those visits to the confessional were necessary, particularly because of the seemingly unending cycle of mortal sin I committed.
I screwed up a lot. I’ve been carrying mortal-sin baggage with me a long while – starting in high school. Week after week, month after month, year after year, I kept repeating this same mortal sin over and over. I went to Confession for this sin over the years, but I never really felt our Lord’s loving embrace welcoming me home. I remained shackled in the darkness, regularly indulging in this sinful delight all the way up to the very moment I carried it out – then suddenly, like scales removed from my eyes, the Lord’s light routinely shined on my conscience and I realized just how much I was pushing our Lord away, just so I could fulfill my own selfish desires.
Each and every time I felt like crap. You may know what I’m talking about. It’s the resounding enlightenment that I have done wrong, but even deeper than that, I have hurt my relationship with someone I love. Despite this knowledge, and trips to Confession, it wasn’t enough to keep me from repeating the same mortal sin over and over again.
After reaching the bottom of the downward spiral, my sister Ann intervened and suggested I attend a retreat. It must have been God’s grace because I attended the Christ Renews His Parish retreat at Saint Bavo’s in Mishawaka in fall 2003. It was the best decision of my life.
During that retreat weekend, I felt God’s love for me in a real and heartfelt way for the first time. And so much of it was because of the outpouring of our Lord’s mercy in Confession. I felt the pain I had caused Jesus, but I also felt his loving arms embrace me. I cried and he held me – like I never felt before. I felt shame, but He was there holding me up and making me whole again. It was an amazing experience and one that has since kept me moving in the right direction.
Has the burden gotten lighter? Yes. But I’m still a struggler. Yet through his grace and purification I have been made well, and with our Lord’s help, I am winning the fight. There is a long, long line of awesome priests who can testify to my struggle and who have shared the heartening words, “may God give you pardon and peace.” I am reassured that Jesus will continue to welcome back his prodigal son, whether it’s my 3,000th or 10,000th Confession.
I firmly believe that our Lord will welcome you back as well. We are all his prodigal sons and daughters, and He wants to lavish his unending mercy onto us. If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, whether it’s been one year or 15 years, Lent is the perfect time to come home and experience a heartfelt welcome like no other. God’s peace and mercy is for us all. Be sure to check out the diocesan webpage to learn of confession times this Lenten season.