The most dreaded sacrament….Reconciliation!
It’s a funny thing, lots of people both teenagers and adults dread confession. The dark confessionals, the speaking to a priest who’s sometimes a stranger, actually admitting our sins (and the fact that we are not perfect) to another person.
Yup, it’s the kind of sacrament that doesn’t have the “feel good” element like the other sacraments….you know, Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, they all have a celebratory, joyful feel to them.
However, let me suggest that even confession can be a time for celebration…..IF we approach it in a new way.
In the past few months Friar David & I were preparing our Confirmation Students to receive the Holy Spirit and the topic of confession came up more than once, in retreats and in discussions. The idea was focused around the fact that we all make mistakes and confession is the sacrament that allows us to let go of those mistakes and make sure that they do not continue to drag us down!
Yes, confession allows us to reflect on our lives, admit that we fail, but that God wants us to get back up and continue on our journey…and after confession we do it a little lighter, with a little less baggage.
In a Grade 8 classroom debate about confession one of the students noted that confession is important because “we want to listen for God’s voice, but sometimes the world is so loud that we can’t hear God’s voice, so we spend time with a priest so that God can speak through him, to us”
I thought it was an excellent argument!
Indeed when we act out against others or against ourselves, we are in need of being cleansed.
On our Confirmation Retreat, Angie, our speaker, told us that just like our bodies, it is important to take care of our spirits. We have to feed, exercise, and clean our souls and our bodies. While we take care of our bodies every day, we must do the same for our spirits, especially before we receive the Holy Spirit at Confirmation.
She taught us that;
-we feed our spirit through the Eucharist
-we exercise our spirit through prayer, attending mass and taking care of others
-and finally we clean our spirit through confession
You may ask yourself; why on earth do I , a teenager or a child, need confession?
In an article I was reading recently, it noted that youth need reconciliation,
“Because they just yelled at their mom, fought with a friend, gossiped about a classmate and said cruel things about someone they envy. They kicked a hole in the wall, turned their back on a peer in need, ditched a group of friends for a ‘better’ group and heaped ridicule – just for ‘fun’, on the school outcast.”
While these things happen because teens are human and we all sin, they also happen because they are going through adolescence.
“Adolescence is a time of stress, and teens do not handle stress well – like the rest of us adults. They act out their stress in negative ways against others, and sometimes themselves – suicidal thoughts, drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, cutting. Teens are stressed because they worry about everything…they worry about conflicts at home, their grades, their looks, their friendships, and their popularity.”
So it seems that confession is perfect for children and teens, because it is the kind of sacrament that helps us look at where we have acted badly, but it then helps us to learn from our mistakes and to grow!
Yes, while confession used to be something that was dreaded, it can actually be the cause for celebration!
Because once we let go of our sins in confession, we are completely forgiven and are now ready to follow Jesus Christ better.
I took a lesson from Angie and I invited 4 priests to come and hear confessions on the rehearsal day before our Confirmation.
I was honestly astounded by the number of youth, parents and sponsors who took the opportunity to go to confession. Afterward, many of them said that they were pleasantly surprised and confession wasn’t as scary as they thought it would be!
Honestly, many priests are very loving people who are simply looking to make their fellow Christians lives better, and more free and joyful!
I’ve learned a lot from journeying with this Confirmation group this year, and if there is one thing I take with me, it’s that confession can be a really joyful and freeing sacrament!
I challenge you to try it this summer.