Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Second Confession and College Blessings!

Hey guys! I have finally settled into college for my sophomore year...I cannot believe I was home for 3 months already...and I cannot comprehend how I completed 1/4 of my undergraduate degree! Crazy!

But anyways, I made a promise to myself to actively make friends...and not just any friends, but friends who will build me up spiritually and not pressure me to participate in the "ungodly activities". So on Monday, I met up with a boy I met last fall (we'll call him John*)...he is very religious, but we differed vastly on what Christianity was. At the time I was one foot in messianic Judaism and one foot in Catholicism...neither of which appealed to him. So we just went our separate ways (unintentionally) and met up later during finals. There we agreed to give our friendship a second chance, whether we agreed on theology or not. So...on Monday...haha sorry for rambling...he asked me to go to the Protestant club on campus and I was hesitant. He assured me I'd have fun and he promised to attend the Catholic ministry club if I went to his. So the deal was made and I was wondering what I could have gotten myself into...I just needed to pray over it.

What I got myself into was a whole lot of fun. The kids were so serious about their faith and it was evident that they lived Christianity day to day. I learned a lot about the differences in their churches (as they were finding out where the freshman should go on Sunday and in which carpool) and I had some good quality "fellowship" :) I was quite surprised by the sense of peace that came over me at the closing of the meeting...I may have just met some life long friends. John wanted to take things a step further and asked me to attend one church service with him...I am looking forward to seeing what it's like at a Protestant church, as I have never been outside of a Catholic Church, but at the same time he warned me people may try to convert me. I just don't want to deal with that...I know they mean well, but I have never been one to witness or express my faith in such a way and it is a little out of my comfort zone always having to defend myself and prove I am not a pagan.

So needless to say I came back to my dorm dumbfounded! My room mate and I have been itching to make friends since last year our dorm style/location made us pretty isolated, lonely college students. God had not only provided me with an outlet to make the friends I had been praying for, but He was also diligent to work on my social skills...I had almost no fear! I kept reciting: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10, as I walked to the meeting and everything just...worked. My words were not all jumbled like normal and I found it easy to carry a true conversation with complete strangers (very rare!)

So with spirits uplifted...I looked forward to my Catholic ministry meeting the following day. The thing was, I had a million things to accomplish before then. I prayed that God would find a way for me to fit everything in...because the times simply were not. I had to do work, eat, do yoga with my friend & her sister, and shower all before the meeting...and the yoga ended a half hour-ish before the meeting started, so I was flustered! But suddenly as the day progressed, things were falling into manageable time slots. (The yoga didn't even happen because my friend forgot their ID card and we ended up doing our own things.) This was another praise God moment (it doesn't sound as awesome on blogger, but if you were me, you would be blown away too! haha)

So I get to the meeting after not having gone all last semester. I had a geology lab during the club in the spring and failed to attend more than 1 or 2 meetings. One of my geology study buddies was really humorous, I just never thought we had anything in turns out, she's a religious Catholic! She had her first meeting tonight and I was just shocked. She was shocked too because she thought I was Jewish...even though we never discussed religion...ever haha. Not only did the entire club remember me, they were very welcoming. I feared they had a bad impression of me from last fall, I seemed a little aloof/shy...who knows what else. But that was another weight off my shoulders!

As I talked to my geology her Cara*, I admitted I had never gone to confession...since my first confession, and was feeling a deep call to go. I was nervous though and didn't know the process...she was in disbelief that I hadn't ever been and told me not to worry, that she'd guide me through it. The meeting itself went well, lots of worship through prayer, singing, chatting, etc. I was loving it! Then at the end, I approached the attending priest. I explained my confession dilemma...and yet again was looked at as if I had 2 heads...and he took me away to confess. I was so nervous and he was assuring me it wasn't going to be bad. He did a general confession...since my sins were so vast and uncountable. I have to admit I was very embarrassed going through this process. I told him things I haven't even told my mom...things I don't want to admit to myself. I tried not to sound vulgar...not to protect my dignity...and I just felt so vulnerable.

He was a very nice priest and he made the confession simple and overall not so bad...but I never had that "phew!" moment. As I walked back to my dorm, I felt naked...embarrassed...and no more forgiven than 10 minutes prior. I don't want to down play this important sacrament! But these are my raw, true feelings as a returning Catholic and I don't know what to make of them. I feel even more guilty for not feeling happy right now! I just cannot shake this lingering feeling shame almost? Do confessions get easier? Am I just feeling this way because I let this all go for so long? And then I worry that I left out some very important sins, even though he said I have been totally forgiven.

I also dread seeing him that he knows my baggage. I actually feel sorry that he has to hear confessions because there is a lot of guilt, anger, and sadness that go along with these sins we must be difficult to hear everyday how far we have fallen...even the young 19 year old college kids. I almost cried during it because I was so angry and ashamed at how stupid I sounded...all the wrong choices I made...and because he was a very inspiring speaker and I felt God's words of comfort seeping into me.

So I'd love to hear your experiences with confession...have you ever just had a bad one? Haven't you ever been embarrassed, especially if you have to see the priest on a regular basis? I really need some comfort right now. I am so happy I did it, and relieved I can honestly get the Eucharist without blemish, but Satan's still here bombarding my head with foolish thoughts and emotions.

Please pray for me, not only for my current situation, but that it gets easier!
Glory be to God,


Deltaflute said...

Does confession get better? Yes and No. The no part first. When you go to confession, you must be repentant and you must understand that you cannot intentionally keep making that same mistake. You have to actually make an effort to try harder at overcoming the sin. In other words, if you going to confession over let's say lying, but you know that to avoid a confrontation that you don't want to get into that you are going to have to eventually lie. You shouldn't go to confession at least not over that sin because you're not truly repentant. That's the hard and difficult part of confession.

Another no is the embarrassment. While priests have heard everything under the sun and are sworn on pain of excommunication to keep your sins secret, it's still not easy to face the music and admit something especially something so private to another person. It's not in our human nature. Especially if what you are admitting to is embarrassing in general.

The yes part: it gets easier to get into a habit of going to confession over time. And it's a great relief to unburden yourself of things that you have been holding you back. At least that's what I feel. Tons and tons and waves upon waves of relief.

I understand that a lot of priests encourage congregants to go to confession weekly, but as I said, if you can't unwillingly give up a sin then there is no point in going. So what happens is that sin eats at you until you finally unburden it.

So it's mostly a yes, it gets better, but only because you spiritually grow and get healthy as you continue the practice.

I warn you that there are times when you will feel stagnation and have trouble growing. It's normal. I would discuss an ongoing problem with the priest during confession if you are struggling to give it up willingly. Priests give great advice on how to overcome the problem or tell you not to be so hard on yourself and take things in steps.

Maggie said...

Oh Rae! This post is such an uplifting thing to read, and feeling older-and-sometimes-wiser I'm overcome with the urge to leave aunt-ly or sister-ly advice and encouragement.

As for your new Christians friends from the Protestant ministry group; have no fear they'll "convert" you. In fact, I was one of those people, an active member of Campus Crusade and the ministry of the local Evangelical Church. I became friends with some Catholic students from my classes, invited them along to my church events (with the same bargain you did; that I would go to their Catholic center occasionally) and guess what? I, a very happy, committed evangelical, became a joyful, head-over-heels-in-love-with-Jesus-and-His-Church Catholic precisely because of the ministry of well-meaning Catholic friends. So you never know! Your witness and gentle suggestions might just bring some of your dear friends into the arms of the Church.

And regarding confession: as Deltaflute said, it both gets easier and not easier. The biggest worry we have, as you said, is that "he KNOWS!" This priest, whom you respect and admire, who sees you on a weekly or daily basis knows your innermost failings. Our natural human reaction is to be horrified. To be ashamed. But rejoice! I've asked priest friends about this before, and they all, without exception, assured me that they are simply so happy that someone has come to lay their sins before Jesus that normal human tendency to judge is overcome by Christ's compassion.

It will get better, I promise. Another thing that helps me is making confession frequent... whether that's every week, every other week, or every month is up to your discretion (and pray about it, certainly). But I find if I wait too long in between, lots of gunk builds up in my soul. It becomes easier to give into temptations, small and large. It's harder to stay focused in prayer. Also, seeing the same priest each time (a regular confessor) might seem terrifying. "I can't go to Fr. X again!" you'll wail. "I just saw him two weeks ago and confessed exactly the same sins! What if he thinks I'm a terrible Catholic for not improving on the things that keep plaguing me?" But in the end, I believe that having a consistent confessor adds another layer of accountability. Also, if the priest knows you well, he can better tailor what to say for your counseling/penance so it's most applicable to you and your unique situations. And I promise, Father X will not sit in the confessional and think, "Goodness, I just saw her! Why is she back already?" Far to the contrary.

Congrats on your Second Confession and happy sophomore year!

Esme said...

I don't really get that "phew" moment either; going to confession makes me feel both better and worse. At the same time that it makes me feel good for finally confessing and doing what's right, it forces me to acknowledge all the things I don't do right, how far from perfect I really am. And while that's definitely a beneficial shame, it still makes me uncomfortable and want to avoid it. I don't go anywhere near as much as I should, but thanks for the reminder. I'm going to try to go again, soon.