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Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Way Back

And there I was, sitting in my vehicle, sobbing.  Wretched, convulsive sobs engulfed my body.  A flood gate had opened and I sat there, vehicle humming, seatbelt undone, face in my hands, sobbing as if I had lost someone.  

My faith life got off track for a bit during and immediately after college.  I would like to think this happens to most people that go through a huge life transition like college and becoming a true adult.  Admittedly, it began because I got lazy.  I got lazy with my faith and lazy in going to mass.  It just became so much easier to not go.  The innate desire I once had to be there was gone and I rejected all of my friends' invitations to go with them.

I think part of it was also due to a new boyfriend and residual guilt I had about our relationship and the fact that he was not Catholic, nor did he claim any denomination in particular or go to church.  I loved him and hey, I was a pretty decent person, I didn't really need to go every single week, did I?

I became a lapsed Catholic and ya' know, for several years after college, I was okay with it.  I would make it to church with my family and maybe a couple other friends, but never on my own.  I couldn't sit in that pew, lonely, dejected, and feeling guilty over my sinfulness.  What if people guessed how I felt?  Could you see those sins as easily as I could, imagining them scrawled on my flesh like pen on paper?  My soul felt smudged, blighted, as if I was no longer good enough for God.

I remember a distinct conversation I had with my grandmother, regarding my faith, years after this period.  I was telling her about it and she said, "Yes dear, I think it happens to a lot of us with our faith, but God was always faithful and standing by, calling you back to Him."

He was and He did.  I felt that yearning deep in my soul on a daily basis.  I felt that want to go back to church, to meet Him face to face in the Eucharist.  I knew I couldn't without confession and boy, that was hard to admit.  During this time period, I had met my now husband and drug him along with me to mass from time to time, but I still felt I needed something more.  We got married in the church.  I kept making excuses to God and myself about the steps I needed to take to get back to Him fully.

Finally, just a few years ago, I summoned up some nerve and went to take part in the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Standing in line for the confessional, I bit my lip and tried hard not to pass out from the anxiety of it all.  After several arduous minutes, it was my turn to step in.

I shut the door, kneeled behind the screen, and immediately burst into tears.  In a shaking voice, full of anguish, I choked out my plea, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been over 10 years since my last confession."  I'm sure some of those words dissolved under the weight of my guilt and sin and abject misery.  I gave my confession, my complete and total list of everything that encumbered my soul.  I prayed the Act of Contrition and received my penance.  When he said these words,

"God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

I started sobbing again.  I was a weeping mess for a few minutes, before the priest said he had a question for me.  He asked me what made me come back.  Why did I seek him out?  I told him my story, of how my husband and I had tried for 5 years to have children and how it didn't work out, even though I prayed every day.  I told him how I changed that prayer after a while and started asking God to make me okay with not having children of my own, to ease the pining in my heart, and He answered that prayer.  How could I not come back after He granted me that?

I walked out of that confessional in a daze.  I'm sure, to the others in line, I looked a hot mess, clutching a handful of Kleenex and a puffy, tear-stained face.

And there I was, sitting in my vehicle, sobbing.  Wretched, convulsive sobs engulfed my body.  A flood gate had opened and I sat there, vehicle humming, seatbelt undone, face in my hands, sobbing as if I had lost someone.

I didn't lose someone that day.  Instead, as the sunset streamed a golden hue through the windshield, I realized that I had finally found myself.  I had finally experienced true redemption.

This Maundy Thursday, I thank Jesus for instituting the priesthood.

Matthew 18:18New International Version (NIV)

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

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