Coffee Cup to Grave Sin and everything in Between
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Since Vatican II a greater emphasis has been placed on God’s action in the sacrament of Reconciliation, than by its former name known as Confession, where an emphasis was on man’s actions. The Sacrament of Penance, yet another name for the same thing, calls for us sinners to approach the sacrament with sorrow for our sins.
On day one of a four-day retreat, I was ready to seek Reconciliation at 5:30. I had my list of sins, doubts and my act of contrition ready to go. The chapel was perhaps 25 yards away from my writing pad, my notes, and my room. At 5:10 or so a deep slumber overtook me and the window of opportunity slipped by on day one. Just as well says I, I have thirty minutes of spiritual direction the next morning that can help me refine my confession and address any of the doubts as well.
On day two, with an early morning spiritual chat about sin and its meaning, the dangers of relativism, the intersection of politics and religion, and our individual and collective roles and responsibility, I refined my confession. It was a little longer, but I was ready in the chapel at 5:10.
At 5:30 a tiny Pious Asian women heads behind the church altar for the confessional room. I position myself non-verbally that I am next in line, antsy to reconcile my sins and retreat back into prayer. The pious woman is taking forever. Does she not know how many people are out here? She cannot have that many sins. She emanated spirituality and goodness. She finally comes out and I head up, genuflecting on the way, and ready to turn the corner to the confessor. The pious women signals to me, a barely audible sound, I turn, and she is coming back up. I say to her I thought you were done, do you have to go back! She explains she went back there to wait for the priest but he never came!
Another evening and a day passes to carry my burden and refine my confession. Saturday afternoon proves to be deeply moving and my sins and the sins of our society are enormous. I get to the chapel at 4:30 for an extra 5:00 p.m. confessional offered by the priest who missed the day before. The Pious One is first in line already, seated right next to the entrance way up on the side of the church. She goes in at 5 p.m. with the priest who provided me guidance the day before. I will be next and he knows my thoughts. Time goes by, and by, and some more. Finally she exits the confessional and heads back and just as I am about to go up a Nun (of immense size) heads back in front of me. Oh well, it won’t be long now. But it is long! If she is that long, I may need a week in there.
I move to a seat close to the front, not to listen, but to be next. Than others follow suit and we now have a legitimate line of sinners eager to reconcile their conscience with the priest.
Another priest and heads behind the church altar. I think maybe the first priest called for backup with the Nun. An elderly lady, several rows back, clearly more pious than the rest, and not in need of confession, caught my eye and told me via a hand gesture to go back. I went back unsure only to find two confessional rooms back there.
I confessed to the new young priest, adding two more sins to my list, which was not minute, that included misjudging the Pious Asian women and thinking negative thoughts about the large Nun who was next door to us and cut the line.
The easy sin was placed out there first for the young priest. Oh how I wanted the veteran next door. A dunk in donuts clerk was rather discourteous and rude to me, and in her rush, did not charge me full price for a coffee product despite my inquiry. It was crowded and I took the coffee mug and coffee at a discounted price and kept going, more out of anger than anything else. Missing church and prayers were considered grave omissions. “Capital sins are also considered grave matter. These sins may include vices that are contrary to the Christian virtues of holiness: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia).” Dependent on one’s measuring stick; I suppose we are all guilty to some degree on anyone of these measures. The gravest sins were for last, the sins of our society in their multitude. You name the illness and depravity: robbing or taking advantage of the poor, murder, adultery, and other sins of grave nature happen under our watch and society universally regardless of how you vote.
Wednesday, the first day, I did not have the wisdom or intuition to address the “sorrow for our sins” as deeply as I could on Saturday. I do not rob the poor, work as an executioner, or commit other abominable crimes. However, Christ came to save not my sins, but all of our sins. We are in a betrothal period for union with the father, where we are all sinners and martyrs alike, unified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
No wonder the Pious Asian women and the Large Nun were taking so long. They were in their confessing for all my sins! The atonement was rather generic for me; attend Mass regularly and reconciliation often! The details of reconciliation appear to be sacrosanct and personal – if you have a real need to know my sins, ask the Pious Asian Lady and the Large Nun. Clearly Reconciliation is the right word, for we truly need God’s sanctifying grace for the actions of the world we live in today, individually and collectively.