As the priest placed his hand over my head and said the Prayer of Absolution, I felt an intense sense of warmth from my lower back and up. A feeling different from the heat and anxiety I have experienced prior and during my Confession. There was something soothing and peaceful about that warmth originated from my lower back gradually spread across my body, as though I was engulfed in a divine fire.
I was not born as a Catholic. It could have been any religion. I was brought up in a Catholic school, my wife Cynthia is a Catholic, so naturally, that is the path I have taken since the day of our marriage. Of all the Catholic traditions, I have always tried to run away from Confession. You may say: Look, Wilfrid, since you are a public blogger, confession should be in your DNA!
Well, it is not the same.
Easter is on its way. To cater for the sudden surge in demand for confession, once a week from now till Easter, there are mass confession sessions held across the island. I have not attended a mass confession session before. Cynthia only gave me two options: this week or next. I picked this week out of the two.
We have not visited Church of the Holy Spirit for years, although we frequent the mall from opposite the street. In my mind, thanks to all the Hollywood movies, I thought confession always involves I entering a booth whereby the priest cannot see me. I can pour my heart out on the sins I have committed in total privacy. In a mass confession session like today’s, it is nothing like that.
The interior light was dimmed. There was a quietness inside the Church except for the humming sound of the air conditioners (thank God for that as you will see why later). Instead of confession booths, four priests were seated at the far corners of the Church. Two priests were seated near the alter. And another two inside the two brightly lit rooms. Confession was to be done in the open! I was in shock. We were supposed to queue up and take turn to sit close to the priests and whisper clearly and briefly the sins we have committed against God. As I was queuing to one of the priests near the alter, I was thinking: Shall I make a generic confession like I should have attended Mass every week but I didn’t? Or shall I make an honest confession?
At the last minute, I have decided to make an honest confession.
Of course I was in shame, feeling an uncomfortable heat on my face as I was hit by anxiety and remorse. The priest asked a few questions and offered some pointers, which I am thankful for. As he rested his hand above my head and granted me the absolution, this divine warmth I have mentioned in the beginning of this post was nothing I have felt before. Such comfort and peace and a touch of divinity – I am glad that I did not skip the session, like I did many times in the past.
As we were leaving the Church feeling happy and lifted, I could not help but to ponder: Is there a better way to prepare for my next confession? There are many answers to this question, I am sure. But this one is mine, and I am happy to give it a try.
Confession to me is a checkpoint to evaluate how far I have deviated from God and the Church’s teaching. If I am unable to think of something substantial and concrete to confess, that could mean either I am a saint or I have no clear visibility on where my reference path should be. I am inclined to think that it is the latter rather than the former.
Hence, the key to making a good confession regularly is to be clear on our right path and to constantly evaluate ourselves against that reference point. There are many ways to get there, such as through prayers and Bible reading. A more effective way could be to attend Mass regularly. During the moment of silence after each reading, reflect upon the passage. Pay attention to the priest’s sermon. Internalize the teaching and reflect upon what we have failed to do, how we can do better. Once we are aware of the deviations and our trespasses, that should make our next confession more fruitful and substantial.
Act of Contrition: Oh my God, I am sorry and beg pardon for all my sins, and detest them above all things, because they deserve your dreadful punishments, because they have crucified my loving Savior Jesus Christ, and, most of all, because they offend your infinite goodness; and I firmly resolve, by the help of your grace, never to offend you again, and carefully to avoid the occasions of sin. Amen.