Reconciliation Resolution

Reconciliation

Several years ago, we hosted dinner for some of our friends.  One of them brought along The Catholic Card Game (yes, that’s really a thing, Google it) for some laughs after our meal.  The instructions told us the first player was whoever had gone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation most recently.  

“A couple of weeks ago,” said one friend.

“It’s almost the end of the month and I go the first Saturday,” said another, “so I’m definitely not going to be first.”

“Yesterday,” one of them said smugly.

Well, if I’m honest, I couldn’t tell if she said it smugly or not.  I was too wrapped up in avoiding saying anything without making it obvious.  I had no idea when I had last gone to Confession.  Sometime back in Lent, I suppose.

I certainly didn’t have the humility to admit that, though!

I admit that’s a pretty weird story and it may not be very relatable, but it had an effect on me.  I assumed most people were like me (which is usually a really bad assumption) and that they didn’t go all that often.  At the time I was preparing for ordination as a permanent deacon and it caught me off guard that my respect for this sacrament was so immature compared to my friends.

One of the precepts of the Catholic Church is going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation once each year, which I did at a minimum, and until that day it hadn’t occurred to me to consider going much more often.

Today, our family’s routine is to all go to daily Mass and then Confession once every two weeks.  For what it’s worth, I take no credit for this, it’s all my oldest son’s idea!  

I’d like to share some interesting observations I’ve made while doing this.

At first, it was hard to think of things to confess.  On one hand, that’s laughable.  I do dumb stuff all day every day!  On the other hand, I didn’t know what to say.  When I confessed once every few months, it became something of a highlight reel or a list of my worst moments that stood out as particularly bad.  I wasn’t going to confess all the little things I did day-by-day.  Who had time for that?  So, I conditioned myself not to see the “little stuff” (if there is such a thing).

Instead of confessing “themes” (I’ve been impatient with my kids), I’m now able to confess “choices” (I made a rude comment about my oldest daughter that I thought would be funny, but instead it hurt her).  

This has led to paying more attention to my actions throughout the day.  As I become more familiar with the signs that I’ve hurt a relationship or made a choice that pushed me away from Jesus, it’s much easier to notice.  Noticing is important not only so I have something to talk about in Reconciliation, but so I can do something about it now!

Next, going to Reconciliation regularly allows me to see where I’m stuck.  Confessing “being a bad dad” doesn’t help me change.  Taking the time to see the moments that I wish I had reacted differently and having to articulate those moments to a priest shows me places that I can work on.  

I’ve discussed several of my bad habits with Tara and with others.  Every time I’ve gotten good advice that really does help me see trouble coming and change how I respond.  I often get caught in the same stupid trap I fell into last time, but regular confession helps me see improvements and successes instead of always being about how I messed up.

Finally, I’ve found a wonderful benefit of rapid freedom from guilt.  When I only went to Reconciliation a few times a year and I did something particularly embarrassing or that caused me guilt, I carried that around for months.  The weight pushed me away from God.  Plus, it was harder to make good choices when I thought I’d already royally messed up.  I would dread Confession because I was embarrassed.

Going more often has meant much more time appreciating God’s mercy and much less time trying to hide from him.  I now look forward to letting go of the things I’ve done and starting fresh.  It’s a great feeling!  I still do things I’m embarrassed to confess, I’m more prideful than I’d like to admit, but I’m learning that talking about them and naming them takes away much of their power over me.  

With this new year, you may be considering a resolution or, as Tara wrote about a few weeks ago, a single word to focus on.  Amid the various habits you’d like to embrace, perhaps you should consider more frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

It’ll probably change your life more than a new diet or gym membership and you’ll be far more likely to get to go first the next time one of your friends breaks out The Catholic Card Game!

And who doesn’t want that?

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