This past Saturday, my wife and I took our daughters (20 months and 2 months) to confession with us. We arrived early, and I had already prayed and gone through what I needed to confess earlier in the day, so I was happy to not have to wait in line. I was holding our newborn on my shoulder, and took her into the confessional with me. She wimpled and cooed next to my face as I received absolution and a renewed soul from Christ.
When I was finished, I tagged my wife as it was her turn to enter the small, dark room. I tried to take my toddler’s hand from her, but my wife insisted that she could take Lilly into the confessional with her, and not wanting to argue with her (especially since the lines were forming), I smiled and watched as she walked our toddler into that small dark room.
I knelt nearby at a pew to do my penance, still holding our family’s new addition on my shoulder. It took less than one Lord’s Prayer before I started hearing the whining coming from the confessional. “Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy…” The whining turned to fits of fear, fits of fear turned to a burst of crying. Then, pounding on the confessional door, Lilly was desperate to escape the small dark room.
Finally, my wife opened the door and they stepped out unharmed. After all that just happened, the crying, yelling, and banging; and seeing the lengthy lines building, I couldn’t help myself. “Seems very similar to my first confession,” I exclaimed. I got a couple smiles, which was all I could expect coming from lines of filthy rotten, repentant sinners. Our toddler began to breathe easy and immediately grabbed for her water from the diaper bag. I’m sure my wife was thoroughly embarrassed.
So, there has to be a lesson here somewhere. Don’t take small children to confession? Maybe. Don’t take your small child into a dark enclosed space? Possibly. But, I’d like to think that the lesson taught to me and my wife on Saturday was what the state of the soul just might look like at times when confronted by a man in persona Christi, who is to extract those stains on the pure clean garments of our souls.
I joked, and it may have been funny, that my daughter’s experience was similar to my own first confession. This statement would only be halfway funny if it were halfway true. And, there is truth in it. I felt sick before my first confession. Feverish, clammy, jittery, and I had my coffee that morning, so that wasn’t it!
I realized something my first confession that I am sure many of us come to understand. It isn’t so much that we are about to tell another human being the sins of our lives that is so scary, but that we would say our sins aloud, knowing that once we did, those words would continue outward through space for eternity and we would never be able to hide them or contain them again.
The confrontation our soul prepares for against the worldly body can certainly be compared to the preparations of battle. And, it is unfortunate when confession becomes a mundane battle. I would like, from this day forward, to see my prayers of repentance as war paint, my pre-confession prayers as a sharpening stone for my sword, and my rosary as the five-decade flail arching outward at my enemy who I meet in true conflict.
Confession, like battle, requires blood, sweat, and tears. The Blood of Christ, the sweat of the worldly enemy, and the tears of true repentance for injuring our Blessed Lord, our Church, and our neighbor, failing this most important commandment, to love God and our neighbor, but also to love ourselves.
I will leave you will a thought of hope in this sacrament we call confession. Not my own, but a thought by one of the few female doctors of the Church:
“For, as it does us no harm to think of the things laid up for us in Heaven, and of the joys of the blessed, but rather makes us rejoice and strive to attain those joys ourselves, just so it will do us no harm to find that it is possible in this our exile for so great a God to commune with such malodorous worms, and to love Him for His great goodness and boundless mercy.”
-St. Teresa of Avila (Interior Castle)