by Maureen Pratt
“CONFESSION IS GOOD for the soul,” they say. I agree. I also find that it helps us to live well no matter what our station or situation in life, especially if we make it a time to move fully out of our own comfort zones.
During Lent and Advent, nearby parishes regularly have reconciliation services that allow us to reflect and prepare for these holy seasons. Often, before our regular parish Saturday evening Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation is offered, making it convenient to go to confession and Mass in one trip.
This year, I want to make a robust effort to revisit the sacrament of reconciliation when it might not be at the forefront of my schedule or mind, or even be convenient. This decision has led already to humor and grace and a tale to tell.
Saturday ended a week punctuated by heavy rain, wind and very cool temperatures. I was snug inside, but decided to unwrap myself from the comfort of home and go to confession. The church I selected was in a very heavily trafficked area of the city. On a Saturday afternoon after a blustery, stormy week, I realized it would be next to impossible to find a nearby parking space.
This got my mind a-worrying: Over Christmas, my car had been burgled, and since then I’d been especially vigilant about keeping it close no matter where I parked. But even with the rawness of my recent experience, I still went forth (though I did faintly promise myself that if parking was a problem, I’d try another church another time).
What God Had in Store
True to my hunch, traffic was thick and spaces all along the way were full … except as I turned the corner in the last block. Right in front of the church was an empty parking space! I have to admit I was a little anxious about what God had in store that it was so easy to park my car and save me a long walk in the chill. But I had no excuse now!
This particular church had two confessionals at opposite sides of the nave. I approached a gentleman sorting stacks of bulletins and asked him if he knew on which side confession would be heard.
“Sometimes it’s one, sometimes the other,” he replied. He glanced at me. “Sometimes both.”
Was he being funny, or seeing something I didn’t realize?
I laughed, nervously. “Oh, I only need one,” I said.
Deadpan, he said, “I meant, sometimes there are two priests. It varies.” And he went back to sorting the bulletins.
I noticed there were others entering, so I sat in a pew and read a page from the devotional I’d brought with me. Gradually, my breathing slowed and I began to pray with my eyes fixed on the beautiful crucifix just behind the altar. Mundane concerns faded as I remembered the magnificent sacrifice made so that I could sit in silent reverence.
A feeling of disappointment in myself washed over me as I realized how small my thoughts had been before, when I’d worried about finding a parking space. Such a petty thing, compared to Jesus’ act of selfless love. And with that realization, my whole body relaxed.
I could say that the reconciliation was in those moments before I went in to the confessional. But really the entire experience was necessary: the private prayer, the reflection and the sacrament.
Confession is good for the soul. And it helps us readjust so that our lives focus, not on that proverbial open parking space, but on the wide open arms of Jesus on the cross.
Pratt writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.