Monday, July 27, 2015

This is my Confession: A Lesson in Humility

We're home from vacation!

Not as restful as vacation should be... the girls never sleep well away from home, but Grace officially (and successfully!) slept in a bed! Every night! The funny memories came when we put her down for a nap, only to see her knocking on the glass sliding door leading to the porch.

Sunday's second reading really hit home for me. Ephesians 4:1-6, emphasis mine:

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing in love. Unity through the bond of peace. 

What a tall order! What is needed more in this world - in the public and private spheres.

My failings are obvious: I was crabby for half of vacation. I can freely admit this now, having gotten way more sleep now that we are back home. I didn't want to be, and I tried not to be, and, at Will's gentle urging, I ended up apologizing to every member of my family for the fog I felt around me. They, of course, were gracious and understanding (as they cuddled my children).

So, this past Saturday, I went to Confession. It seemed to be the thing to do after vacation, plus Will had fallen asleep on the couch instead of in bed (another no-sleep SICU shift left him passed out before he finished his lunch), and the girls needed to get out of the house. I took the girls with me on a penitential trip when I went to the wrong parish at the wrong time. I went an hour early to the one farther from our house, and decided to not risk missing my turn by driving to the other parish.

We creepily followed the older lady up to the church steps, only then seeing the sign that confession was in an hour. She offered to let us in, but I balked, saying I would take a walk with the girls instead.

Mistake. It was SO HOT OUTSIDE. We said half a rosary, and hurried back to the cool air condition to wait out the rest of the 40 minutes. Grace and Laura were very reasonably behaved, especially considering Grace was missing her second nap for mama's reconciliation.

Finally, it was almost time for Father to come out. The older lady re-approached me, and introduced herself as Monica, the sacristan before 5 p.m. mass. She offered to watch the girls while I was in the booth. I piled the girls into their double stroller and off they went! Monica very slowly pushed them around the church, and it seemed to calm them both into silence.

Father came out: I stood awkwardly, allowing him to put out his little name plate before I dove into the kneeler. It had been too long since my last confession.

And it was a good one. I felt my heart being opened. The beauty of confession is that, while Christ already knows all, you are the one that brings forth your sin and admits to them. You must present yourself honestly, humbly and with the dignity of knowing you are wrong, and determine to do right. The priest is a minister of Christ: in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. ("Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers" as St. Thomas Aquinas said, as quoted in the Catechism). This man of God listened to me, and responded so gently and thoughtfully that I finally had to say,

"Father, that is my child screaming."

Yes, in an attempt to quiet Laura's more frequent whining, the lady had picked up Laura, who then realized her own mother was not pushing the stroller, and thus decided to test the acoustics in the buttressed church.

She was full-out crying. Father acknowledged this, and continued his counsel. I have to tell you: I expected to feel mortified. I did not. I felt love.

I felt the love of this priest, counseling me.
I felt the love of the Lord through the sacraments.
I felt the love of a community of believers as they (yes, I walked out to many) tried to pacify my daughter. (Grace was shockingly calm! They usually pair up when one starts crying.)
I felt the love of my baby daughter, crying out for her mother.
I felt the love of forgiveness; the love of mercy.

I also thought of Hell, which is not to be feared for its flames, but rather, the total absence of God. Laura felt my absence, and wailed. I thought, This is what brings me back to mass every week, and to confession: my soul screams for God because I love him, even when I am not feeling amorous. Sin does that - pushes us away from God. Reconciliation brings us back.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen. (An Act of Contrition)
As I walked out of the booth, I felt light and immediately went to pick up Laura, red in the face and sobbing. As I held her, even for those brief first moments, she calmed down and stopped crying. My child, I love you. I said this to Laura. God says this to each of us.

The lady then offered to help me to the door ("You can say your prayers later, okay?") and I laughed a little at the whole scenario. I buckled Laura back into her seat, thanked the lady, and off we went. Both girls ended up falling asleep before we arrived at our next destination: the grocery store.

That was the first time I've wrangled both girls to confession by myself, and surely not to be my last. It was, more importantly, another opportunity to say "I am sorry." We're teaching Grace to say "sorry" - she says "uh oh!" when she drops things, which is super cute, except when it's on purpose/ food-related. I repeat ad nauseam: "Uh oh! You did that on purpose, Grace! Let's say, Sorry Mama!"

Is Grace saying "sorry" yet? No. Does she understand what "sorry" means? Absolutely. Today, Will and I were busy cleaning, etc. and not paying close attention to Grace. She became absolutely irate at us, and we scooped her up and placed her on our bed. She wouldn't look at us. We sat with her, explained that we were cleaning, we love her and we are sorry she is feeling upset. We apologized to her and asked for a hug. She hugged us both.

It's essential for me to model humility; the inability to admit one is wrong (or might be wrong) is a harmful vice - it leads to dishonesty, stubbornness and a close-mindedness that is hard to crack. I want my children to know that struggling is okay. Struggling breeds innovation if positively encouraged.

Pride is forever my confession-worthy vice, but I, a disciple of the Lord, "urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."

Love like a child, forgive like the Lord. God, keep me humble! (Ouch, this prayer is going to hurt.)

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1 comment:

  1. Julie, thank you for this humble and insightful post. I too need to swallow my pride a lot lately. I am sorry to my husband and to my children seems to come much easier than to my daughter-in-law who receives forgiveness from God and should be allowed to learn that from me. Bless you for helping to lead others by your example.