Saturday, March 22, 2014

An unforgettable confession

This Lent, Archbishop George Lucas is inviting all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha to experience the sacrament of reconciliation through a program called "The Light Is On."

This Lent, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha, especially those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament, are invited to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Omaha will be open on Thursday evenings (March 13, 20, 27, April 3, 10) during Lent from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for Confession and quiet prayer. 
Since my Bible study meets at my parish on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m., my gal pal Michelle thought this would be a perfect opportunity.  She invited me to join her at 6:00 p.m. before our study to receive the sacrament together.  How awesome is that?!

As we waited in my pastor's line, I looked over my laundry list on a free app called "Mea Culpa."  (My friend, Jonathan, did a review on this app on his FOCUS blog here.)  I downloaded Mea Culpa last week, and it is FANTASTIC!  

From the iTunes preview page of Mea Culpa

The app is an opportunity for you to thoroughly examine your conscience before going to confession.  Mea Culpa goes through extensive lists of possible venial and mortal sins you may have committed, organized by the Ten Commandments.  The venial sins have a bug logo, and the mortal sins are noted with a skull and crossbones.  If you've committed the sin, you simply swipe to the right to add it to your "Committed" list (noted by a doctor's bag).  If you've committed the sin more than once, swipe additional times to the right.  You can also add notes to the sin to include any additional thoughts such as occasions of sin in this particular area, habits surrounding this sin, or a plan of action to avoid it in the future.  

Additionally, the app allows you to create a passcode to protect your privacy.  You can also create a daily examination reminder so that you remember to make a regular examination of conscience at the same time each day.

Eventually, the person in front of me exited the confessional.  As I walked in, I noticed that our pastor's name placard on the wall was covered with a sheet of paper that said, "Archbishop George J. Lucas."  I didn't absorb the meaning of that sheet of paper until I found myself in the confessional, sitting face to face with his excellency, Archbishop Lucas.  

The Most Reverend George J. Lucas
Yup, I went to confession WITH THE ARCHBISHOP!  As it turned out, he was at my parish to celebrate a Mass to recognize the area altar servers, and he graciously offered his time in the confessional before the Mass. 

He was visibly amused at how starstruck I was when I saw his face.  We got started, and I apologized for bringing my newfangled tablet in to the confessional.  I explained how this new app, Mea Culpa, helped me to create a very thorough list and that I was afraid I might forget some of my sins if I didn't bring it with me.  He smiled and said that he had heard of it and was glad that it would help me to make a good confession.  

It's always so humbling to go through your laundry list of sins, but it was especially humbling to do so with his excellency listening a few feet across from me.  After I finished, Archbishop Lucas spent a few minutes giving me some of the most convicting and encouraging words I've ever heard.  He very wisely noticed that a good portion of my sins revolve around my vocation.  Because I spend most of my day performing my duties as wife and mother, my husband and children are almost always the ones on the receiving end of my sins.  He encouraged me to take heart and trust that precisely because Jesus asked me to live out my vocation, He will meet me there.  Archbishop Lucas encouraged me to leave the confessional with the intention to find Christ in the midst of my vocation and to live a life of active thanksgiving.  In seeking out Christ during the day-to-day life as a wife and mother, he said I would start seeing the ways that Christ is blessing even the ordinary moments.  He encouraged me to start mentally thanking Christ for those blessings and to verbally thank those around me.  

Have I mentioned how much I love confession?

After Archbishop Lucas' convicting words, he invited me to say an Act of Contrition.  In case you aren't Catholic, here's the prayer:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen
Confession always makes me cry, but the graces I was experiencing that night overwhelmed me.  When I got to the words, "but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love," I started crying.  Ugly crying.  I didn't come prepared with tissues, so I had to grab a few from the box sitting next to Archbishop Lucas' chair.  I eventually made it to the end of the prayer and heard Archbishop Lucas say the most beautiful words I will hear this side of heaven.

"I absolve you of your sins..."

Hearing those words after I rattle off my sins and apologize for them always brings me such peace.  With tears streaming down my face, I thanked his excellency, wished him a blessed Lent, and told him that I would be praying for him.  He thanked me and wished me the same.  (And, no, Star Wars fans, I did not say, "May the force be with you," to our Archbishop named George Lucas!) 

I held the door open for my friend Michelle and whispered, "It isn't Father Dan; it's ARCHBISHOP LUCAS!"  I wish I had a picture of her face in that moment.  I'll never forget it!

As we passed each other and I squeezed her arm, the image of St. Téresa de Ávila and her fellow sisters came to mind.  When I studied abroad in Spain, I had the opportunity to visit the confessional where St. Téresa and her sisters regularly went.  My tour guide told a story that has become part of Catholic legend.  (My friend, Lisa Schmidt, from The Practicing Catholic wrote about the same story here.)  After going to confession herself, St. Téresa would wait for the other sisters.  As each sister emerged from the confessional, St. Téresa would take them by the shoulders and convict them with the words, "Begin again!  Begin again!"  

In no way am I even remotely trying to compare myself to St. Téresa.  I just love the image of the sisters lifting one another up outside of the confessional.  I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have a friend that was doing the same thing for me.  It's pretty awesome having friends that encourage me to participate in the sacraments and begin again.

So, that's my unforgettable confession story.  Do you have one?      


  1. Oh what a great story!! You have one terrific archbishop over there. What a gift you were given there.

    I haven't heard of that particular confession app, so thanks for the tip. Going to check it out now.

    Great post!

  2. What a great experience - I think I would have freaked out if I'd gone to confession with our Bishop! What a blessing he is to you!!

    My unforgettable confession is the general confession I had with my spiritual director just before Christmas. There was a lot of "stuff" leading up to it, and a lot of preparation, but it was so worth it. While I generally love a longer act of contrition, my spiritual director only asks that I say, genuinely, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." As I said those words that evening, I understood so clearly why those words were "enough" - for in coming to one of His priests in confession, I was asking for mercy - nothing more and nothing less. The tears and the relief that came from those words pale only in comparison to the tangible feeling of grace that washed over me as he placed his hands on my head and absolved me.

    Confession is a powerful, wonderful gift!

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I too have found this Mea Culpa app very helpful to prepare for my confessions. It helps with number and kind when giving the laundry list.
    I too was blessed to have a wonderful confession over the past weekend while on retreat with a group of Third Order Carmelites. My confessor was ordained by Blessed Pope John Paul II and he is such a gentle confessor that after leaving the confessional I received not only absolution but a blessed Benedictine crucifix for protection in my car. I just so happened to suffer a minor car accident where I was rearended on the way to traveling to the retreat and was suffering with a sore back so I was also asking for an Anointing of the Sick which I received and for my pain that evening I even got a shot of Christian Brother Brandy....I slept like a baby. All the gifts and graces were over abundantly lavished upon me!!! God is Awesome and only wants us to love Him more and more.