Often in ministry, people will ask us why anyone needs to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession. My sins are between me and God, they reason, why would I need to confess them to a priest? The Church believes that a priest acts of God’s vessel, absolving us of us sins and helping us atone for them. Beyond that, I believe that there is some serious power in admitting to another human, often face to face, the things which have gone wrong in our lives.
Human beings are secretive creatures who rarely like to admit the times we have failed. It takes a fair amount of bravery and humility to admit to another person the things you aren’t proud of, and to express your sorrow and willingness to do better. It is much easier to keep it between ourselves and God, at least in my experience. But the grace, peace, and forgiveness that can be received through an actual confession with a priest is hard to put into words.
I don’t go to confession often, maybe once or twice a year, but when I do go, I am often moved to tears. Three years ago, I was nearing the end of my first year of graduate studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. During the period of Lent, my school had a Lenten reconciliation service, much like we are having tonight at Stonehill, where there were communal readings, silent reflection, and an individual opportunity to confess. After the readings and silent reflection, I approached one of my favorite professors, who also happened to be a Jesuit priest, to hear my confession.
I can still remember how nervous I was to begin. I won’t tell you the specifics of my confession, but it generally had to do with my never ending quest for perfection and never appreciating the gifts God had given me. I’m so hard of myself, I remember sobbing, and I’m often hard on others too. When I was done speaking, the priest just looked at me and told me how happy God was that I had come, and admitted all the things I wasn’t proud of. He told me how completely God loved me, and how delighted God was that I wanted to be a better person. He assigned some simple prayers for me to say as penance, and asked me to try and remember at least once a day how much God loved me and how perfect God thought I was. He hugged me, and I started crying again.
For the first time in a long time, I felt seen, heard, and forgiven. I felt like the priest had helped me to glimpse the love that God has for me, for all of us, and that changed everything. It was a beautiful experience, difficult to put into words, but one that I wish everyone could experience.
If you are on the fence about attending our service tonight, consider it. Even if you don’t feel comfortable yet confessing to a priest, still consider it. MaryAnne and I will also be present to have spiritual conversations after the service. Or you can just come for the readings and silent reflection! I pray that you might experience God’s peace, love, and forgiveness this Lenten season, whatever that looks like in your own life.
This post was written by Campus Minister Sarah Fontaine-Lipke.