Psalm 25:11 “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”
Throughout late 2010 and into all of 2011, I worked to become a better spiritual leader to Elissa and my three daughters. However, I struggled with the guilt of my past sins and prayed for guidance frequently. The answer, of course, was in front of me every Saturday afternoon before 5:30 mass but I tried not to see it. In December of 2011, God finally got through my thick skull that I needed to reconcile with Him by confessing my sins to Him through the sacrament of reconciliation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The confession of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.”
The problem was that I hadn’t been to confession in over 30 years and couldn’t even remember what to do. I had to look up the rules on-line and re-memorize an act of contrition. It seemed simple enough: Walk in, say hello Father it has been 30 years since my last confession. He’ll then ask me to state my sins. I figured that might take awhile for me. After that, he might ask me questions for clarification and then ask me to make an act of contrition, give me penance, and say a prayer of absolution. Why was it so hard for me to step into the confessional?
During Advent of 2011, I finally worked up the nerve to go. I did not tell Elissa in advance just in case I chickened out. I went to 7 a.m. mass downtown at the cathedral, spoke with the priest after mass, and confessed the worst of my past. When I was done, I felt a wave of relief and lightness in my soul that I had never felt before. Elissa and I had always joked that if I ever went, the poor priest’s head would explode with all my sins. I sent a simple text to Elissa “The priest’s head didn’t explode.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Reconciliation brought me great relief and a renewed desire to grow in my faith. It brought me closer to God, and made me want to amend my life in several ways.
Reconciliation made me want to grow in my faith. I signed up for a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) weekend in April 2012. Hearing the stories of the men during my receiving weekend moved me deeply. I realized that I was not alone in my troubles and that there was hope for a sinner like me. I attended reconciliation that weekend and felt a new sense of peace. I also did something I never thought I would do, join a CRHP giving team. Those six months were a blessing in my life as I came to know, love, and respect all the men on my giving team. Those blessings continued in March of 2013 when I joined several other men in Morristown, Tennessee to present CRHP for the very first time to 19 men at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Reconciliation made me want to be a better husband to Elissa. To help with that, Elissa and I attended a marriage encounter weekend in May 2012. If you have not gone to one, I highly recommend it. We learned so much about each other, improved our communication, and renewed our commitment to each other. During that weekend, we promised each other that we would try couples prayer. Neither of us had much experience with spontaneous prayers said aloud. I am happy to say that we have prayed together for a year now and it continues to bring us closer to each other and to God.
Reconciliation made me want to be a better father to my girls. Dr. Meg Meeker, in her book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” wrote, “Our daughters need the support that only fathers can provide—and if you are willing to guide your daughter, to stand between her and a toxic culture, to take her to a healthier place, your rewards will be unmatched…The only way you will alienate your daughter in the long-term is by losing her respect, failing to lead, or failing to protect her. If you don’t provide for her needs, she will find someone else who will.”
In the summer of 2012, I started date night with Daddy for the girls. Each month, one of my daughters picks an activity for just the two of us. I have taken them to baseball games, fancy dinners at the Golden Lamb, and putt-putt golfing at the Web on Cincinnati-Dayton Road. What we do together isn’t really the point. What is important to the girls is that they get one-on-one time with their father. I do this to try to demonstrate what love is to my girls so that as they get older they do not seek love from others in inappropriate ways.
Reconciliation made me want to be an active participant at our parish. I did that by becoming a lector last year. It has helped me focus on God’s word and set a leadership example to my wife and daughters. One benefit I got from lectoring is that on August 26, 2012, I got to read Ephesians 5 to the congregation. God spoke to me in August 2010 through that passage, urging me to serve my family by leading them to Him. I read it from the heart because it has had such a strong and lasting impact on my marriage.
I am still a sinner, always will be, but with the sacrament of reconciliation and God’s grace, I can now confidently, and without hypocrisy, lead my family in our spiritual life. I thank Him every day for another opportunity to do His will.
If you have avoided this sacrament, I encourage you to step out in faith and step into the confessional. You will not regret it.