So, what were you doing one year ago?
February 5, 2013:
(while this posting does include emphasis on my own Reconciliation in my return to God and the Faith, it's a conversion/reversion story, not one focused on the Sacrament)
I'd been away from the Church and from God for maybe 10 years, attending Mass only when required for a funeral, wedding. I rarely even attended with family at family functions. I couldn't attend in good faith, knowing I was living was apart from Christ. I couldn't receive the Eucharist, and I had no desire for confession over the many years. I didn't even attend Protestant services, because while there is also good in other religions, I deep down knew I was supposed to be Catholic (as revealed to me many years earlier, from God; your mileage may vary).
Our oldest son had emergency surgery for a spontaneous collapsed lung a month earlier. Despite him being a young adult, I was just as scared as if he'd been 5 years old. As I prayed in the nearby waiting room (what? prayed? Yep, even as a sinner, fallen away Catholic, I still knew God was there, but that I wasn't there for God; I wasn't praying for myself, but for our son), I thought of all my relatives who I believed were in Heaven, or at the least, on their way there. I pictured each of them in my mind, and asked each one of them to pray for our son (as well as every saint I could think of...which wasn't many). I saw my beloved grandparents, friends and other family members....including my aunt, Shirley.
Now, my Aunt Shirley had been in a wheelchair for over 20 years when she died a few years ago. She was in a lot of pain, and suffered greatly. That's how I always remembered her, when she crossed my mind over the years. But not that day. That day, my beautiful Aunt Shirley had a smile on her face, and walked towards me from the 'line' I was visualizing. She had such joy on her face like I don't ever remember seeing. It was a very spiritual moment, because I felt that she was telling me it was going to be okay (it was), and that she was happy and healthy once again, in God's arms. Wow. I didn't consciously think about that...it just happened. Our son recovered fully from the lung collapse, praise God.
The few weeks after his surgery, I seemed to be struggling. I guess I was struggling against God. I knew I wasn't worthy (I'm still not). But I felt Him calling me. My life was 'okay'...my husband had recently received full time employment; our kids were in college, and I was doing okay. But deep down, I knew. I was living in fear. I was afraid to die. The pathway I was on was easy and clear, and the destination was not a good one. I didn't realize the fear I had in my heart and soul until it was gone.
Somehow, I was brave enough to reach out to a nearby parish priest via email. I had read his 'bio' on the parish website, and he seemed like a young, caring priest. I simply said, "Will you be the Priest offering Reconciliation tomorrow evening? It will be my first Confession in many years, and I need to make a sincere Confession." That simple email, those few words, took me a lot of courage to write! I received a quick response: "God rejoices that you seek His forgiveness in this Sacrament to begin again anew! I will be hearing confessions as well as Father XXXX. We will both be there then. You are most welcome to come then for confession. If you would like, another possibility is to set up an individual time for confession. Which ever you would like to do, please know that you are most welcome! God bless, Father XXXX"
My last confession had been in 1999. So I had some things to cover, including serious sins such as not attending Mass on Holy Days of Obligation, including Sundays, and things I now realized to be sins that I hadn't covered back in '99. I grew up 'scared' of going to Confession. No one likes getting in trouble, and that seemed like all it would be. Now that I think about it, I had only been to Confession ONCE in my adult life! I can't imagine that now!
So, I went. I hadn't given myself enough time to talk myself out of it. I think if I had planned to go more than 24 hours from the time I sent that email, I would have talked myself out of it. I can be very convincing to myself, especially if it involves taking the easy way out.
I did it. I think I made sure I was last in line, because I didn't want to hold anyone else up, and I knew I'd probably be very emotional afterwards (which I was). I was scared of the penance I'd receive, the way the priest would judge me, and maybe he would say I was too far gone to be forgiven, and my road to eternal damnation was already complete. None of that happened. The priest (behind the screen of course; are you kidding? I go anonymously 99% of the time) was very welcoming and caring, loving and thoughtful. I did truly feel like Jesus Christ was there. The priest spoke words to me that applied so much to my life; how else could he know that? I received so many words of comfort, and joy. My penance? I was scared of that, but had become more scared of Hell, so I was ready to do whatever I needed. It was to pray a Rosary.
Now, I didn't have a Rosary with me (I carry one everywhere since that day; sometimes two!), nor did I remember the Mysteries or how to say them. My only experiences with the Rosary in my life had been at a wake, and before Mass when I was young (which is to say, I didn't want to be there, let alone kneeling on hard kneelers, praying, while my cousins were still at home playing!) at my Grandma's. I had to ask if I could do my penance at home. He of course said that was fine. Since that day one year ago, I think I have prayed hundreds of Rosaries. I've also received a lot of joy, peace, answers, gifts and signal graces during this time.
I truly felt such weight lifted off my soul, my heart, my shoulders. I had never realized how scared I was of death and the hereafter until it was removed by returning to God and the Faith.
My husband, I'm sad to say, had no idea any of this was going on in my heart or mind, other than my Aunt Shirley experience. He was out of town when this took place. I honestly don't know if I could have done it that day had he been in town; what if I failed? I didn't want my failure, my possible rejection in my Church, to be known to him. Because, if God couldn't love and forgive me, then my husband probably couldn't either. I AM happy to say that he was happy when I told him afterwards, and when I mentioned going to Mass that weekend. We've attended faithfully ever since. Our anniversary was just a few days later, which made it even more joyous. I'm very excited for this Sunday, World Marriage Day, and our anniversary. Great timing!
One year later, so many great things have happened, some of which you can read about on my blog. Have things been perfect? Have I been perfect? No way! But I'm trying, not to be perfect, for that is impossible for humans, but to be pleasing to God. Have I sinned? Have I fallen short of the Glory of God? On a regular basis, yes.
One of the most exciting things isn't even happening to me, but a friend of mine, who is becoming Catholic after years of thinking about it; maybe I helped nudge her, just a little bit. Maybe my rambling, talking, shouting from the rooftops, is a good thing, after all. Those posts on Facebook do have an impact! I've been saying recently that God gave me the gift of many words; I might as well use them for good and for His Glory!
Luke 15: 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance...... 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.....32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 7: 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.