Wednesday, March 9, 2011



I confess to Almighty God,
And to you, my brothers and sisters,
That I have sinned through my own fault,
In my thoughts and in my words,
In what I have done and what I have failed to do.
And I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin,
All the angels and saints,
And you, my brothers and sisters,
To pray for me to the Lord, Our God.

The Confiteor


I have a confession to make.

Though I sometimes feel compelled, it is always difficult to write about my interior life. Perhaps you read some of these essays and imagine you like what I have said. If you don't know me in person, you could well be left with the impression that I am holier than I am. This would be a mistake.

It is true that I attend Mass, I pray, I read the Scriptures. I believe in God. I spend time in monasteries. All this is fine, but it is not holiness.

My tastes are spartan, even austere to some. I don't crave the latest, newest, or best. For the most part, I am content with my lot. I have relatively few possessions. I love solitude and silence. All this is fine, but it is not holiness.

There is nothing wrong with these things, but the trappings of religion or the desire to live a simple life do not, in themselves, make us holy. These things can all be seen. It is entirely possible to do these things and still be very much of the world. This is not enough. What matters is our inner life: those things which are strictly between us and God.

The secrets of our hearts are known to us and Him alone. Perhaps we try to hide them, even from ourselves. But, if we are honest, we know what is there, and it can be ugly.

We try to console ourselves; I am a good person. There is usually some truth to this. A paralyzing scrupulosity or a blind self-hatred is not what we need. Perhaps we are good by some measures. Even so, I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts, my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.

Sad, but true.

The Sacrament of Penance is perhaps the most misunderstood sacrament; misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is unfortunate, for it has a power unlike any of the others. An examination of conscience, however brutal, is an exercise not in self-loathing, but in honesty. To say your sins aloud before another person is to confront them openly and repent. To hear the words of absolution is a physical sign that your prayer has been answered.

The Sacrament of Penance is not something we do for God. It is something God has done for us.

It is ironic that we live in such a confessional society. People confess their sins everywhere: in print, online, on TV: to psychiatrists, social workers, and talk show hosts. Clearly, we have a deep need to unburden ourselves.

When I was a boy, someone gave me a copy of T.A. For Tots. You remember the one: warm fuzzies and cold pricklies? I'm OK, you're OK? Even then I had my doubts about that. Now, I'm sure of it. In truth, neither one of us is all that OK, but we are loved all the same, and that is much better.

As we enter into this season of Lent, think of this: even Mother Teresa confessed her sins every week. What could she possibly have to confess? I don't know. But I know I am no Mother Teresa.

I have a confession to make.

Respectfully Yours,



CiCi said...

Nice to know you live the simple life too. We live such a quiet life and it is what we worked to achieve. Several times we eliminated more and more of our stuff. Even now we have more than we need but others would look at us and think we should have more. Letting go of material things frees me up to work on things that are important to me. For me, I have heard confessions in recovery meetings. Mother Teresa is an example to us all.

Anonymous said...

Powerful post. And you're so right about confession being something God does for us, not the other way around.

Suldog said...

We tend to grade our goodness on a curve, rather than on an absolute. Of course, when compared with God, well, the words of Saint Paul ("There is none righteous...") certainly apply. Stacked against each other? Much easier!

"Maybe I'm not Mother Theresa, but I'm not Hitler, either. Hey, bartender, another Black on the rocks, please."

I have much the same inner dialogue as you, concerning what people may think of me vis-a-vis the writings I put out on the internet. Not that I think they have a mistaken picture of me being holier than I am, but just in general. I'm sure misconceptions abound. Eh. As Twain said, "What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written. Every day would make a whole book of 80,000 words ― 365 books a year. Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man ― the biography of the man himself cannot be written."

lime said...

i humbly thank you for this reminder. i needed it.