Forgiven

Today my 7 1/2 year old love fairy, Phoebe, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. Yep, we’re Catholic. Or at least I am. And our kids are being raised Catholic. With my husband’s blessing of course.  What I’ve come to realize over my lifetime is that a lot of people find this confessional thing kinda weird. The most common thing I hear is – “Why do you need to tell a priest your sins? Why not just talk to God on your own?”

And honestly, I kinda get it. It is kinda weird. Walking into a small box of a confessional (even if it is way more mellow and comfortable and face-to-face than it EVER was when I was a kid) to have a conversation about sins can sound pretty uh, strange. 

But my standard answer has always been something along the lines of .. “Well, it’s a lot harder to think about how you can improve as a human being and actually talk to someone about it than just sit and think about it.”

And I think that’s about right.

Today proved it.

•••••••••••

I haven’t been to confession in a loooong time. When Claire received her first confession two years ago, all of the parents were encouraged to also confess but uh, I didn’t. And before that? I can honestly say I hadn’t even considered going in years. Like a lot of years. I had convinced myself that my private conversations with God were good enough as far as me recognizing my faults and trying to improve on them.

Even this morning, after the group prayer service and after the gentle encouragement that parents are welcome to confess after their child, as I sat and waited for Phoebe’s turn to go into the confessional, I was not even considering going in. She was a little nervous, worried that she might forget her sins, and I was all about just telling her it was all good and it won’t be scary or bad or weird or anything. That the priest she was going to see was super nice and all was good on the confessional front.

But with Phoebe – I should have known….

“Mommy, are you going to confession? You must go to confession too. You just have to.”

“Oh really Phoebes? I’m not sure honey. There are a lot of kids waiting and well, I can go another time.”

“No Mommy. You must go.”

With her angelic face, she was calm yet determined. Her questions were not pleas – they were barely questions really. They were statements. Spoken with quiet conviction.

When her number was getting closer to going in, she got up from the pew and stood at the wall waiting her turn. I remained seated. She looked at me from her place in line and gestured for me to come. Not emphatic. Not desperate. Just certain. She mouthed to me -

“Come Mommy. Come stand behind me.”

•••••••••••

Phoebe has been taking care of me since she was born. It’s her. Don’t know how else to say it. I remember when she was about 17-months-old and we were hanging out on my bed after her evening bath. I had the paper spread open before me and I was reading a sad article about some sick twin babies who were awaiting a transplant of some sort, a miracle, and I was getting weepy. Phoebe looked into my eyes with the tears welling up in them and she said “Mama’s cying?” (That’s how she said crying. No R) And I said, “Yes. Mama’s reading a sad article and it’s making me cry.” And in her love fairy 17-month-old way, she said, “Love you Mama. Love you.”

•••••••••••

I got up from the pew without thinking too much. I was just doing what Phoebe was telling me to do. As I stood behind her, she shifted in her place with a nervous smile on her face as she looked towards the confessional door waiting for it to open. She was next. I gently rubbed her back and asked her if she was ready. She said she was. She had the sweetest look of innocence and excitement in her eyes. A new adventure.

The door opened, her classmate came out beaming and proud, and she slipped in without needing any final words of encouragement from me. She was on her way.

As I stood there waiting for her to come out, I thought I can’t really believe I’m doing this. I wasn’t nervous. I was just feeling a little embarrassed. I knew I didn’t really have to go, that no one else would care if I went or didn’t – only Phoebe cared. I was doing it for her… I guess. I was setting an example, I thought. I’m teaching her that this is something we do as Catholics. But inside, I felt like a skeptic. A fraud. Did I believe in this? How come I haven’t gone in more years than I care to mention? I wondered if that is why I haven’t gone. Maybe I stopped believing that there was really any reason to go at all. That my life was not better or worse for having confessed or not.  Maybe I had come to the conclusion that going to confession was basically irrelevant. Maybe?

As I stood there knowing I would most likely go in because well, Phoebe would be expecting me to go in, I wondered if I could go through the motions of confessing. Did I know what I would say? Are they even doing it the same way they used to I thought? “Bless Me Father for I have sinned…” Is that what I should say?

I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes as I stood there. Oh man. I did NOT want to cry. Come on! This is Phoebe’s day, not mine. I am here to support her! Not just stand here and get all weepy and consumed with my own thing….damn.

And then the door opened and she slipped out. Just as pure and innocent and near perfection as she was when she entered just a few minutes ago. I felt my legs walking towards the door and my hand reaching for the handle and before I knew it I was face-to-face with a priest. Inside a confessional. No screen. No darkness. Just a friendly face in priestly garments.

Holy shit. Now what?

I stammered – I haven’t been to confession in forever.

No problem, the priest said. We specialize in that.

Well, what should I do? Do I say the things I used to say? How do I start?

Well, he said, we covered a lot of ground in the prayer service before this, so we can just start.

Okay. Do you start or do I start?

I’ll just ask you, he said, one thing. And he looked straight at me and said – “If you had to name one thing that is keeping you from having the kind of relationships you want to have with the people in your life and with God, what would that one thing be?”

And with that question, I realized exactly why I was sitting there. And of course, in me style, the tears started flowing and I apologized for being such an emotional person, but I knew exactly what that one thing was. I didn’t have to reach or dig or make up anything or bullshit him or anything.

The words just came.

When I walked out of that confessional a mere 7 minutes later, I felt renewed. Yeah, I know that sounds all corny but I did. These words I shared were deep inside me and I knew about this thing that holds me back too often but it’s a whole different ballgame when sharing these words with another human being. Especially a person I didn’t know well at all. Who was able to view me as just another imperfect soul trying to get a little better….

I don’t know what it is really. Not sure why the whole experience was so freeing. So filled with that new start vibe. Is it because the priest absolved me from my sins? From those weaknesses that keep me from being the kind of person and mother I really want to be? Is it because I looked another soul in the eyes and spoke about what I feel hinders me? What was it exactly?? I don’t know but I do know I felt better. Cleansed. Free. Human.

I went over to Phoebes who sat in the pew waiting for me. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her for making me go to confession. She looked at me with a knowing look that said “Of course. No problem Mama.”

And that’s just the way my motherhood journey continues to go. Just when I think I am leading them, I realize they are guiding me too. Showing me things I can’t seem to see on my own. Giving me what I need when I don’t think I need it.

After Phoebe and I were all confessed-up and soul-cleansed, we headed over to the patio of the church so Phoebe could pick up her certificate, a sugar donut and a wooden cross necklace that said “Forgiven” on it.

Forgiven.

It’s a pretty powerful word really.

And a cool feeling I’ve decided.

 

 

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17 Responses to “Forgiven”

  1. Jessica says:

    1. You’re an incredible writer.
    2. You’re an incredible writer

    and

    3. I absolutely, utterly adore you and admire your strength and beauty and grace.

  2. So powerful. We don’t have confession at our church, but this sort of makes me wish we did.

  3. Ann says:

    Incredible, post. Incredible girl, incredible Mama.

    Incredible writer.

  4. I get it. And I love how you wrote this. I’m glad you’re back.

    Truth-telling is cleansing and freeing. Totally. I’m so glad you’re the kind of mother that is open to what your kids are teaching you and I’m so glad you wrote about it so it can teach me, too.

    Love you. xoxo

  5. christine says:

    Wow. I love this post. I love how you wrote it. I love that you shared this. I have not been to confession since, well, I don’t know how long, but lately I’ve been waffling back and forth about going. Seriously, this gave me a push in the right direction.

  6. katie says:

    Amazing … you manage to sum it all up! Well done. xx

  7. Sometimes during the course of our day, we get to read things that lift us up so we can float for just a while. Funny how they’re never the posts that point us toward perfection, but the ones that heal a piece of the broken.

    This post.

    Thanks.

  8. OHmommy says:

    My daughter is receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in two days. Last year, I didn’t confess alongside my first born at his Reconciliation. I wasn’t planning on confessing this coming Wednesday either.

    I’m a little teary eyed right now after reading this beautiful post. I needed this.

  9. Wow. I could’ve written this…up to the part when you actually walked INSIDE the confessional. I didn’t do that. Though my daughter begged me to. And last summer when she asked me to take her to confession one day, she again asked me to go. And, again, I did not. I even stayed outside in the car while my mother took her in. It’s been a long while and I thank you for this post. It has given me peace to know that I’m not alone, and it has given me courage to take a step I haven’t taken in many years. Peace & blessings to you….AND your little love fairy!

  10. Suzy says:

    I too was raised Catholic. Which is Spanish for my mom took my sister and I to Church on Sundays while my Dad stayed home and watched football and drank beer.

    When I was 13 I snooped in my Mom’s things and discovered some letters she’d written to another man. The letters were in French and began, “Mon cheri” As poorly as I did in grammatical French, I spoke it fluently and knew this was potential bad news for our family. The letters continued for months.

    Upset, I finally went to confession. The monsignor told me I HAD SINNED because I read my mother’s private things. He gave me 2600 Hail Mary’s and 4500 Our Father’s.

    I sat in the pew afterwards doing my penance until I thought, WHAT THE FUCK WAS WRONG WITH HIM? I was 13. I needed help. I was distraught. And I knew one thing.

    I had not sinned. I quit the church that day. Never looked back.

  11. Karen Duggan says:

    That was one powerful post, there mama! I love the 7-year old conviction. ‘You will do as I wish.’ It’s really not a question. I love that you are the type of mother who will follow that loving lead!

  12. Laura says:

    LEE!!!!
    I love you
    love you
    LOVE YOU

    now…lets talk GOD :-)

    dude…I am a cradle Catholic…and I always “believed in God”…but..

    until life became freaking AWFUL…

    well, then when I was down on my knees with nowhere to look but UP…

    I started getting to KNOW GOD.

    Major conversion of my heart
    life changing

    and Reconciliation?
    AWESOME. Flipping rocks. I go EVERY WEEK.
    And yes, I confess to a Priest, because for me, just saying my sins in my head to God is not enough. I need to HEAR I am forgiven. From the person that God is speaking through. I need it like air, and water.

    Confession is the best gift of the Catholic faith. Pure genius when you think about it. You are not judged. You get to talk and talk and get it all off your chest…it will never be repeated to anyone…there is nothing you can do that is NOT forgiven…it is FREE therapy….how great is that?????
    We all suck in a way, really…I mean, come on…sinners galore! No need to pretend we don’t…so why not recognize it, apologize for it, and start clean?

    I had an experience a month ago…right before Annie’s Reconciliation, with a freakin AMAZING Priest…we talked for over 30 minutes about an issue I had…he really worked with me…gave me amazing suggestions, and after absolution, he looked right at me..right in my eyes, and said “YOU ARE FORGIVEN. YOU REALLY ARE!!!!”

    Lee…dude…it was as if I were looking into the eyes of Jesus.
    I LEFT NEW AND CHANGED.

    but now Nick has been in LA for the week…my car broke down…coffee maker broke…and my kids are so dang annoying, and well…I think I need a break before I confess that I killed my children.

    MISS YOU!!!!!

  13. [...] “Forgiven” from Moms Without Blogs: I got up from the pew without thinking too much. I was just doing what Phoebe was telling me to do. As I stood behind her, she shifted in her place with a nervous smile on her face as she looked towards the confessional door waiting for it to open. She was next. I gently rubbed her back and asked her if she was ready. She said she was. She had the sweetest look of innocence and excitement in her eyes. A new adventure. [...]

  14. Oh how I love this. You took all of my emotions about this and put it on paper. I stood behind Delaney as she made her First Reconciliation. Her dad went in. I didn’t. I tried to brush it off. She didn’t ask many questions, but your writing would have answered them…. I do feel like a fraud. And I haven’t been able to pinpoint my reason for NOT going….

    Her First Communion was almost two weeks ago. Her veil was a family heirloom – more than 100 years old. Worn by me, my mom, my grandmother and my great-grandmother as a wedding veil…. it was glorious. Seeing the faith through her eyes is something different entirely.

    Beautifully done.

  15. Eileen says:

    Standing ovation. I’m not Catholic and you made me want to go to confession. And that’s saying something.
    I. Love. This. Thank you for sharing such a private moment with all of us.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Hey lady. Don’t know how I haven’t come to this before now, but man am I glad I came. This is gorgeous — you are gorgeous. And it really, really resonated with me. Sitting here in tears by the end. Love you, Lee.

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