I grew up in the 70’s in a diocese that had a shaky grasp of the The Faith. My last childhood memory of the sacrament of Penance, was going to a reconciliation service. There were readings and a homily about forgiveness and then at one point the priest invited us all to meditate on our sins, offer them to Jesus, and ask His forgiveness. That was all. We never left the pew.
My parents stopped taking me to Confession and I stayed away from it for several years. I took a break from Sunday Mass as well.
Later, as an adult with a young child, I found myself hesitantly approaching The Church again. I began attending Mass. My daughter was of age to make her First Communion and so my husband and I enrolled her in religious education classes at our parish. She made her first Penance without a problem, but I still avoided the confessional.
The following Lent, our pastor preached consistently about the need for Confession. This prompted my daughter and she asked me to go. “Mom, we should go, Father says so”. I was reluctant, but I really didn’t see how I could expect my daughter to go and then not go myself.
My daughter and I went to an evening reconciliation service at our parish. It was the real deal, confession in a confessional, not the group reconciliation service of my youth. Several priests from neighboring parishes were helping out. The way it worked, you couldn’t get in line for a particular priest. You just got in line and when it was your turn you went to the next available priest.
My daughter was afraid of one priest who was decidedly not warm and fuzzy. He was stern, grumpy, and often angry. She was in line in front of me because she was eager, until she realized that it was her turn and the available priest was the one she feared. I quickly whispered, “I’ll go first honey”, and I moved past her towards the confessional. I was pleased to see her shoulders relax in relief, but now I had to deal with my own fear. Here I was entering the confessional for the first time in 15 years with a very cranky priest.
“Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been 15 years since my last confession”, I began. I had studied for first penance with my daughter so I was well prepared and started listing my sins.
During the course of my confession I confessed a sin that prompted the priest to ask for explanation and context. I answered his questions, explaining that I had been deceived.
What followed was so profound that it brought me back into the fold of Mother church forever.
“What is your name”, he said. There were tears welling in his eyes. “I would like to pray for you”.
This sincere expression of compassion stunned me. It was in such stark contrast to this priest’s normal demeanor! There was no doubt in my heart, I knew I was with Jesus and not some cranky priest.
About Emily Borman
Emily Borman is Editor-in-Chief for Conversation with Women, a website where Catholic women anonymously share their stories of struggle, and ultimately joy, in living the Catholic faith in regards to marriage, sexuality, chastity, and society. Emily is also a Master Catechist for the Diocese of Arlington and holds an Advanced Certificate in Youth Ministry from the Diocese of Arlington in conjunction with the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She and her husband Bill have been married for 28 years and are nearing an empty nest.