Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Accepting Grace, in spite of Pride

I finally went to confession. It had been a few months, and I felt particularly nervous since this was a new priest, a new place. Therefore, I wanted to plan, to spend several hours examining my conscience.

One morning I got up and went to the Catholic cathedral in downtown Savannah. It's open all day to visitors, and there are always tourists taking pictures. I had been meaning to go, so I went, lit a candle, prayed a Rosary, admired the iconography and statues. Thinking that was that, I got in my car and started home. Halfway there, I felt a tug to call and see if any priests in the area were available to hear my confession that day.

Confused but feeling strangely urgent, I parked in a strange neighborhood and started searching for churches on my phone. In no time I saw a church with which my husband and I have no connections and called the office. To my surprise, the priest himself answered. Yes, he would be happy to hear my confession, no, he had nothing going on at the moment, why not come on over?

The church was in south Savannah, so I did have some time to consider my recent past as I drove. It's been a chaotic last few months: moving from D.C. to Savannah, my husband's graduation from seminary and ordination to the diaconnate, my sojourn in a mental hospital. There were many opportunities for sin, but as I drove the thing that reverberated in my heart was my intense self-hatred.

I met the priest, talked a bit about my situation, made my confession. To my consternation, he was more concerned with my suicidal tendencies than with anything else. He gave me his card and made me promise to call him, day or night, if I was in any way tempted to end my life or hurt myself.

One of my religious quirks is the desire to earn my own way. Maybe it's part of overcorrecting from my Calvinist past, in which man could do nothing and had no free will. Or maybe it's human nature that cringes from gifts and would rather give to charity than be charity. I would rather be given a harsh penance than be told that most of my confessed "sins" require being more merciful to myself.

Maybe that's why it took me so long to confess in the first place: I know from past experience that the grace found there is abundant and embarrassingly free.


  1. Isn't that just our Lord, though? His love and mercy both comforts and corrects us. He doesn't see us the way we see ourselves. Of course He has compassion for your sufferings! Sounds like a wonderful priest, who has that father's heart.
    Blessings to you on this First Friday, I am heading to mass and will place you in the sacred heart of Jesus.

  2. Being a bit on the scrupulous side, myself, I often find I am quite a bit harder on myself than is usually warranted when in the confessional. It is sometimes just as hard for me to accept the grace of being forgiven as it is for me to cooperate with the grace He wants to give me to help me change my life and stayed turned outwards toward Him rather than turned inward on myself (a major personal problem).

    But really, it's all of a piece, isn't it. Grace of forgiveness. Grace of metanoia. Grace is God's life in our souls, so when we speak of all that free, abundant grace, we're really talking about God sharing His very life with us and making us truly alive with Him. It's an incredibly overwhelming, humbling, almost terrifying thought to have all of that freely offered to me, if only I will accept it. I want it, but sometimes accepting is so much harder than it should be.

    1. Not familiar with the word metanoia, so I looked it. Fascinating stuff. Come to think of it, we probably talked about the word in my adult confirmation class, but that was when my memory was shot :)