Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Confession

            As I looked over my blog posts for the last few weeks, I realized that everything I’ve posted lately was written in response to a prompt of one kind or another. So today’s post is not only unprompted, but it also delves into the murky waters of religion and politics. I normally avoid both topics—not just on my blog, but in real life.
I don’t avoid politics because I’m apathetic. On the contrary I care very deeply for and have strong opinions about our country. I avoid it because we’ve come to a place in our society where there is very little room for true discourse. Political discussions quickly become shouting matches where we look for someone to blame, instead of looking for solutions or (God forbid!) compromises. Name calling has become the norm. If we teach our children not to call each other "stupid", shouldn’t we teach our leaders not to call each other "unpatriotic" when they disagree?
As for religion, I believe that faith is a personal and private thing and I don’t wear it on my sleeve. That doesn’t mean it isn’t in my heart. I’ve always liked this verse from the Gospel According to Matthew, “When you pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is there in the secret place; and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.” Don’t get me wrong, if shouting your beliefs from the rooftops (or the gridiron) is your thing, go for it. To me, there is great strength in quiet faith.
            Last week, my son James had his first Sacrament of Reconciliation. That’s the new term for what we used to call Confession in the Catholic Church. The name change is an important one. It doesn’t simply make something unpleasant seem more palatable. It’s about putting emphasis on the important part of the ritual—reconciling. In reconciliation we not only admit to our transgressions, we atone for them and promise to do better. We make amends with God and ourselves. I know for some, the idea of sending a seven-year-old to confess his “sins” may seem over the top. But as I’ve worked with James, and his older brother before him (our church uses a home school program in combination with bi-weekly classes), I’ve come to believe that learning to apologize for the things we do wrong and work to make them right is a valuable thing to learn at an early age.
            Think how different the world would be if public figures were willing to admit their mistakes and try to fix them. Personally, I would respect a person for coming forward and saying, “I made a huge mistake. I’ve hurt people I love. I’m really sorry I did it and I’m going to make it up to them and try to not do it again.” How much energy gets wasted in the workplace when someone tries to cover up his or her mistakes instead of just owning up to it, apologizing, and straightening it out? People make mistakes—some bigger than others and some more public than others. Just as we all make mistakes, we are all capable of making things right.
            When Owen made his first reconciliation two years ago he asked me when I had last gone. I admitted that I hadn’t been since high school. I’m not one to make my kids do something I’m not willing to do myself. Besides, there had been something that weighed heavily on my conscience at the time. I had long since been forgiven by the person that I hurt, but it still gripped my heart. So I recited my Act of Contrition and confessed. The priest’s words were not accusatory, but comforting. He assured me that God had forgiven me and it was time to forgive myself. I felt lighter having received Reconciliation. Maybe it was the changes that have been made to the sacrament over the years, or maybe it was the first time I felt I needed absolution, but whatever the reason I walked away feeling better. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Confession is good for the soul.” Funny thing about old adages, sometimes they’re true.