A lot of times I apologize as a knee-jerk reaction for unwarranted reasons, like getting in the way, taking up space, breathing, etc.
getting on the elevator
“Oh, sorry! Four.”
opening the door for strangers
running into friends
“Hey Larn, how’s it going?”
Which is dumb because “sorry” shouldn’t become an overused and meaningless word, especially when it comes to a sacrament.
One of my high school theology teachers once said, somewhat jokingly/somewhat seriously, that when he dies he hopes it’ll be while he’s leaving reconciliation so that he’ll go straight to heaven.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the sacrament of reconciliation, it’s basically when you confess your sins to a certified, nonjudgmental sin-forgiver (aka a priest). Sounds kinda crazy right? There’s a lot of theological points I should make right now, but it’s been a while since 2009 and I haven’t brushed up on the technicality of the sacrament in a while. From what I remember, every time you receive a sacrament, you receive the gift of God’s grace. And let me tell you, God’s grace feels GOOD.
Which is why people humble themselves before either a complete stranger or the priest that married their parents, baptized them, and watched the evolution of their Easter outfits through the years.
One of my favorite experiences of the sacrament happened while I was in Paris. We were visiting the Notre Dame and I was a little taken aback (slightly disappointed) by how touristy it seemed. I noticed a windowed room where confession was taking place, so I thought, “When in Paris!” and waited my turn to tell my sins to a French priest. Now the cool part of this experience was the language fence. I don’t want to say “language barrier” because he spoke English, but there’s always room for things getting lost in translation. I don’t remember what he said or what I said (probably “I’m sorry for being a glutton and eating eight billion croissants”) but the cool thing was the fact that miles away from my home parish, I could sit in this room, surrounded by but away from the tourists, and receive God’s grace. I’m struggling how to articulate how cool and universal this felt so here:
One of the most beautiful things about the sacrament is the mere fact that people show up. I know there’s some Catholic rule out there saying how many times we’re supposed to receive the sacrament, but for the most part people go voluntarily to admit that sometimes we do crappy, human things. Last night I went to a reconciliation service at Gesu here on Marquette’s campus and the Jesuit priest that prayed with me reinforced this notion. He told me that something compelled me to come that night. He also said that reconciliation is a sacrament of encouragement.
I’ll repeat what he said again.
Reconciliation is a sacrament of e n c o u r a g e m e n t.
I think that’s why I love it so much. As I’ve gotten older I find that my emotions act up more strongly during the sacrament, probably because my trespasses extend beyond “I called my brother a buttface.” But it’s also because it’s encouraging every time to feel that forgiveness wash over you. It’s like when you’re bodysurfing (not real surfing I’m from Indiana cut me some slack) and you catch a wave flawlessly and then run back out to the ocean and backflip into the next wave to get the sand out of your suit. It’s encouraging to know you can ride with the wave, something that has the capability to knock you down on other occasions. And it’s a relief to feel that water wash back over you and clean the sand out of the places where it’s uncomfortable to have sand.
God unites and encourages and forgives and cleans the sand out on the daily. Let’s celebrate with eight billion croissants, shall we?
Highly recommended song that goes along with this post: Moving On by Mat Kearney (it’s off his new album “Just Kids,” so it’s not on YouTube yet, but do yourself a favor and just buy the whole album or follow him on Spotify).