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First of all, I must say that I love all the movie references to confession. They are all so dramatic and powerful. Of course, there are lots of jokes revolving around confession. The 90 year old non-catholic man going to confession, “Father, she was 23 years old, I’m telling everyone!” One of my favorite comedians, Bill Maher, had a bit about being half Jewish and half Catholic so when he went to confession he took a lawyer. (Forgive me father for I have sinned. I believe you know Mr. Cohen…) I bet there are millions of non-Catholics, like myself, who think they know a bunch about confession. I imagine we see it as – go to a church, climb in a box, look through some ornate wooden grate, say “forgive me father for I have sinned, it’s been xxx since my last confession,” recite what you’ve done and say you are sorry, the priest gives you your penance assignment and absolves you. Occasionally either the priest or the confessor is dead. That’s probably mostly in the movies. When I was around 20 years old I once accompanied my friend Lisa to confession. I sat on a bench in a waiting area, and when she returned she encouraged me to go inside, too, but I was chicken. Turns out it’s only for Catholics anyway, so it was good I didn’t go. Anyway, that personal experience and those vicarious movie experiences created my idea of confession as I headed off to class on Tuesday.

Our lecture, Update, and video discussed the church’s view on how this Sacrament has changed. They went to great lengths to compare Confession to Reconciliation. Confession began with reciting sins (confession), then expressing sorrow in an Act of Contrition, then agreeing to penance, then a resolving to change (conversion). Reconciliation changes the order to conversion, confession, and celebration. The theology was drawn from the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Conversion is ongoing – we come to our senses and realize something is not right with our values or our lives (major or minor). We want to change and to return to God’s love, to experience Metanoia or an interior transformation that comes when God’s Spirit touches us. This is not a punishment penance, this is a growth penance. It’s that conversion experience that leads to confession. But in the Prodigal Son, and even in Zorba the Greek, the father didn’t want to hear the litany of sins. He had already forgiven. This is not to say confessing isn’t important. (And cathartic!) But Reconciliation is for sinfulness not for the actual sins themselves. They are the lesser player in this. We are called to do more than just recite or misdeeds, we should reflect upon what was in our hearts that lead to the deeds. And unlike old-school confession, the final step of Reconciliation is celebration. Celebrate that God loves us.

Another theme expressed was the community aspect of sin. Father Hines mentioned it in many of his videos, and it was expanded upon here. There was a big, interesting, and lengthy explanation, but the main point is that when we sin we separate ourselves from God and from others. Usually we understand the God connection, but we often forget the impact it has on those around us. Reconciliation allows us to repair these relationships. The Prodigal son says “Father I have sinned against you and against God.” I guess many of our sins come from doing something to another person or thinking about doing something to another person. Plus, our mental outlook affects how we treat other people, so even unrelated people are affected by our sins if our guilt or anger makes us unpleasant company. Regardless, this community aspect of it is one of the reasons a priest is present, to represent the human element as well as acting for God, so that we can reunite with both God and our community.

Our Update addressed something that still throws me, but I’m working on it. If we are already forgiven, if God loves us no matter what, if God always loved us, then why do we have to confess anything? And why should we be good in general. And doesn’t this make it seem too easy. Everything is right and everything is valid and I’m okay and you’re okay. If so, why bother? Father Cayer said that Heaven is happier when one sinner turns away from sin then when 100 people never strayed at all. That does not seem fair to the people who never strayed. I’m going to go stray right now – look at me having a total BLAST eating chocolate, drinking margaritas, and doing questionable things. Five years from now, I’m going to come back and make a lot of angels happy. Except, if I’m planning that out in advance, then it probably doesn’t really count. And if I think it’s a total BLAST to go hedonistic, is that a bad sign? Does that make me a poser. Shouldn’t I not want the crazy life? Not that I do particularly want the crazy life, but still – any time you can’t do something… I’m still like the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I still think it’s not fair. Well, part of me does. I’m wishy washy on this. How do I get past that? At least the Update says this is a very human problem, so I share this with a lot of people. Unlike the Update, however, I don’t think I have a problem with forgiving other people here on earth. So maybe that means I’m closer to where I should be than I realize.

Many years ago my mother and I went antiquing. I have seen church pews at antique stores before, but this trip one particularly large store had a confessional. It was HUGE. It was $1200. I wanted it desperately. Sitting in that confessional I experienced such great peace. It was indescribable. More than after yoga, more than after church, more than at the Tibetan monk mandala. It was transcendent and special. But I had neither the space nor the cash, so I couldn’t get the confessional. I would very much like to experience that sense of peace again.
I don’t know what the confessionals at Our Lady of Victory are like. I don’t know the steps for confession as we have not yet had our practice session/workshop. But I do know that I am so looking forward to my first Confession. After that, I’ll call it Reconciliation.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
magnet5
Jan. 27th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Perhaps it's a matter of God's love overriding God's sense of fairness: The lost child comes back, it's very exciting and it probably does feel like a bigger deal than the child who was staying at home all the time.
madladyred
Jan. 28th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
That's a beautiful way of putting it!

Rationally I understand the idea, but I'm still too much of a toddler. I can't get past myself, and I keep stamping my foot and pouting.

Funnily enough, in The Philosopher at the End of the Universe we just hit the question "Why be moral?" He's using Hollowman for the movie example. Parts of his discussion relate very well to some of my toddler issues. :)
magnet5
Jan. 28th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
I share some of your toddlerness.
It's like being forgiven all your sins: It's great for us, but it's harder for me to deal with the idea of some genuinely horrible person getting into heaven because they repented at the last minute.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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