When my husband and I decided that we would use this school year as an opportunity to begin getting to confession more often, I was both scared and excited.
Scared, because I really hadn't gone very often at all since high school; and excited, because I was certain that the grace available to me through this sacrament would be life changing. And I really wanted some of that.
I've always hated going to confession. I guess that makes me pretty normal.
When I was a kid, confession was made available to us Catholic school kids during recess following lunch, on the Thursday before every First Friday; and I always went. Yes; I'm old enough to report that this was before the advent of Reconciliation Rooms and Face-to-Face confession, at least in our parish. Once Face-to-Face came into play as the "preferred" method -- I think I was in high school (stop calculating that age, darn it!) -- going to confession became, frankly, unbearable.
It's a personality thing for me, I think: It stops being an exercise of honest self-appraisal and enlightened contrition, and instead becomes merely an embarrassing, overly self-conscious, giggle-studded therapy session, where I worry way too much about what the priest "thinks" of me, and way too little about why I'm really there.
And, but for the occasional "group penitential service" (where individual confession was made available), I stopped going at all, for many, many years.
Well, when The Chief and I decided to make a go of this confession thing on a regular basis -- taking First Saturdays as our monthly target -- I just figured I'd bite the bullet, try to get over my immaturity about the whole thing, look that priest (one I didn't know, preferably) right in the eye, and come clean. I wanted to have a more joyful home, and I knew my own sinfulness stood in the way; and I was finally willing to do whatever it took to overcome my aversion to what I was certain, by the Grace of God, would be the key.
Nobody else in this family likes to go, either; and if I don't push it, we don't go. How's that for a Catch 22? I actually find myself in the awkward and awful position of trying to force my family to do something I don't even want to do myself.
Leaving me, of course, with plenty to confess.
(As if I needed any help!)
So, anyway, the thing that finally got me (and the rest of my less-than-enthusiastic crew) going every month, was my sincere hope that doing so would make everything ... better.
I make by far a better confession, I've found, if "old fashioned" style is available to me. I call it like it is, with much less self-conscious embarrassment; I'm succinct and to the point; I don't giggle; I don't look for ways to soften the blow of whatever it is I'm there to confess; and I worry very little about what the priest (who, yes, I don't know, and can't see me anyway) may think of me. I get awesome feedback that sometimes is so directly on-target that it sends a chill up and down my spine, and I'm actually able to hear it without all the distractions that, for me, make "Face-to-face" style so unbearable. I actually feel better when it's all over, and until that point at which I decide to ignore it (is it possible that once a month isn't nearly enough for a hard case like me??), I can actually sense God's grace helping through exactly the difficulties that propelled me to seek confession in the first place.
You'd think I'd actually start to like going to confession with results like that. Sadly, um ... no. But I'm holding out hope that experience will triumph over expectation in the long run.
Which is why I'm dragging my family (who no doubt needs this far less than I do) out for First Saturday confessions again today. (Don't even bother telling me that I need to go, even if they don't. I'm still desperately resistant, and I need them there. For now, anyway.) (The Chief isn't getting fair representation here, he would have me point out. He actually has First Saturday on his work calendar every month. He's totally with me on this. Unless, of course, I were to casually suggest we not go this month; he's nothing if not ... flexible.) :)
What has surprised me most about this experience, is that for me at least, the greatest impact has been in making me increasingly aware of how terribly far -- much farther than I thought, and I actually thought I had a clue -- I miss the mark where holiness is concerned. How quick I am to dismiss grace when it is (obviously, even to me) made available. How slow I am to ask for help, from the only One who really can help. How terribly far I have to go.
(Heck, I expected this would make everything easier!)
In God's world, I'm sure this as known as "progress."
In my fallen world, however, it can be a little discouraging ... in an encouraging sort of way (if that makes any sense at all).
And that, my friends, is the most surprising thing about confession, so far.