March 05, 2008

Gratuitous Swimming the Tiber Observation

Tonight's topic at RCIA class, as we get closer and closer to the Big Day, is going to be preparation for First Confession.

Duh, Duh, Duh, Daaaaaaah!!

I've been fretting about this in a casual way for a few weeks now. Not that I'm not looking forward to it, mind you. The General Confession that is part of the Anglican Eucharistic Rite has always struck me as unsatisfactory, given that it is in the form of a generic liturgy spoken by the entire congregation and specifics are never gone into. Perhaps there are some people who can make a detailed examination of their conscience and full acknowledgment of sin in such a setting, but I'm not one of them. And troof be told, I look forward to the cleansing sensation of having to face my faults on a much more personal level and in front of a pro.

No, what I fret about is simply not being able to remember everything. Mom thinks I'm crazy, and I certainly wouldn't call myself an especially villainous person, but, well, I am 43 after all and life happens. Should I bring an outline? Scribble notes on my shirtcuff? No doubt I will get some answers this evening.

As a matter of fact, I've an idea that I'm going to get tagged for sins of omission much more heavily than sins of commission. Bad news, though, Steve-O. I'm gonna have to fess up about that incident with the bullfrogs, the duct-tape, the gallon of Valvoline and the effigy of Susan Sarandon. (It's not like He doesn't know already, but I'll still need to say something.)

HUGENOT AND PROUD YIPS from Steve-O: Two observations. First, rent a copy of Heaven Help Us. The confession scene with Kevin Dillon says it all. My best advice to you: lie, and add a lie to your list of sins. Because, to paraphrase Dillon's immortal Rooney, the Nuns are going to come and cut yours off if you tell the truth about your last week in College.

Second, don't forget to include stealing a bucket of balls, going to the top of Foss Hill, and driving three woods in the direction of the library. Because that's like a sin on a number of levels. I don't think you were part of the raiding party that stole that statue of the Virgin Mary out of that guy's front lawn on Waverly Ave., so I think you're in the clear on that.

Also, memory seems to recall that you got a kick out of humming "Wang Chung" in the boat on mornings when I was particularly hung-over, so annoying an actual-then member of the Roman Catholic faith? That's gonna cost you.

And, as an editorial comment, The Rite of the Reconciliation of a Penitent begins on page 446 of The Book of Common Prayer, and runs to page 452, occuring right before Ministration to the Sick and after Thanksgiving for a Child.

"Bless Me Father For I Have Over-Gripped And @#($*&#(!!! Shanked It AGAIN!" Yips! Back From Robbo: Ah, that Foss Hill episode. I think the closest I came to damnation was when I almost beaned that guy jogging on the track. Also, I may have swiped the balls, but somebody else stole the shopping cart. And in general, at least I never stood on the roof of a certain frat house trying to lay mashie shots on the roof of a certain radical fembot collective down the hill.


No, the closest you came to tarnation was something involving an old easy chair, a pitcher of grain coladas, and a David Bowie mixtape. Oh, and the big jar of fluffernutter you stole from my fridge the same night. I'd always assumed that was for a post-luvin' snack, but if that got used during, well, they're going to make room for you amongst the Albigensians in hell. (That's a spiffy Dante joke if I've got my heresies correct).

TDP? Same week, dude, different set of linens.

And if it was a sin to order 20 Dominoes Pizzas to be delivered to those commies who took over the president's office to hold a hunger strike, then I don't wanna go to heaven.

Posted by Robert at March 5, 2008 03:47 PM | TrackBack

Just don't do what I did at my very first confession, in the Third Grade. You know how little kids like to recite things in a loud, sing-song voice, like when they say the Pledge of Allegiance? Yes indeedy, my sins were on parade, wafting out of the confessional and into the ears of my giggling classmates. Alas, I was never known for having an "indoor voice." Good for starring in "Gypsy", bad for the Confessional.

Posted by: Monica at March 5, 2008 04:54 PM

Make a list. Be thorough. Keep in mind that venial sins are erased in Communion, so use confession for the more serious stuff. If the venial sins are habitual, then certainly bring them up in confession, because they do, indeed, add up.

For instance -- I had a problem with profanity (loud, colorful, frequent, and occasionally blasphemous) that I used to confess. Oddly enough, when I started praying the Rosary regularly, it went away almost completely. I swear only very infrequently now (I used to border on an Eric Cartman with Tourette's level of profanity (if you saw that episode)).

Another important part of it which is seldom mentioned is forgiving others. I had in my life 3 or 4 people who truly hurt me; and I'll tell you, the Lord was not joking when he said "as we forgive those who trespass against us". I have never felt forgiveness more than after forgiving someone, and simply letting go of old wounds. Do this in advance of confession.

Stuff you forget is forgiven, but if you remember it after the fact, try to mention it next time. You never get all of it; invariably there's stuff you miss, or remember 15 minutes after confession. Don't agonize over it, just save it for next time.

Think of it this way -- Christ has already forgiven it. Confession is just you picking up the gift he has already left for you. He's done the work; we get the benefit just by being honest with him. The sins we confess are the claim check.

Posted by: The Abbot at March 5, 2008 04:58 PM

Even stuff you don't mention is forgiven, so don't go in with a list. Hit the highlights, and tell the priest what you think you need work on and ask for guidance. If there's a glaring pattern, they'll offer it anyway. The Abbot's right: you'll never remember all of it, so do try and bring it up next time if you forget something. Also, learn the Act of Contrition. I'm sure they already covered this in RCIA, but if they haven't, it'll be in the back of the missal. It's usually next to the prayer to St. Michael. ;)

I don't know if they'll give you the choice (some churches don't, simply because they only have old time confessional booths) but I would recommend avoiding Face to Face confession if it's an option. Keep that screen between thee and the priest, as it's a much less daunting process without the priest staring you down. ;)

You'll do fine. And you'll feel SOOOO good when you're done. Your soul will be lighter. It's amazing.

I do, however, want to hear what your penance was. Heh.

Posted by: Kathy at March 5, 2008 07:15 PM

Robbo's got to go to the woodshed...heh,heh...

Look, the morning I did it, I thought for sure I was going to be struck down with lightning and if for some miraculous reason I wasn't, then, Mr. P certainly would be...Terrified does not begin to describe the feelings that morning.

However we both emerged, alive and, more important, forgiven.

Now, here's where I'll give you a little hint but don't tell anyone -ok?- be sincere but remember because you were a Protestant and more importantly 'Episcopalian'---sssshhhh this is totally top secret---the Church views you, prior to becoming Catholic--as a wet smack and a total loss-- remember I speak from experience. You are possess what is known as a malformed conscience because the priests in the Episcopal Church teach things (most sincerely too) like life without birth control is unthinkable... abortion is outside of marriage is A-Ok, sex with the same sex is better than with the opposite sex...what's adultery? never heard of it? Divorce..why that's what used to happen in Mexico if you didn't drink the water and baptism, hey,that's for those who speak in tongues, etc, etc....

The priest will be so pleased you've had the courage to come to the confessional and participate in the sacrament of reconcilliation. Besides, he's heard everything, you can't surprise him, I think. He will give you great advice and also advice on how to make good confessions. For your penance, you'll probably get 2 or 3 decades, a sincere meditation or something like that because the confessional is not so much about receiving the penance, it's about admiting the errors and saying you won't do it again.

But you will find with some sins you will do them again and you confess to the priest this is a repeat...and then the next time this is a repeat of a repeat. But do be careful, and you must avoid scrupulosity (sp?). That's what took Luther down.

In the begining, I went face to face but found the old fashioned way much more preferable.

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at March 5, 2008 07:29 PM

Robbo: well, enjoy yourself. I just went to confession when on my first retreat in 25ish years, and I have to say it was a good thing.

I may have mentioned this before, but let me give you the Official Secret Decoder Ring Confession Guide that all priests learn when they are in training: the number 3. No, not the Holy Trinity. The third thing that you hear. For some reason, it seems that a typical confession goes something like this: I took the Lord's name in vain, I have been rude to a co-worker, and oh yeah I founded Enron and stole gazillions from widows. So priests learn to just skip the first two and wait patiently for the third.

Now, I'm sure that you're going to be tempted to somehow muck with this system. One obvious way is to start off strong with your first two and watch the padre - by now sitting goggle-eyed and white-knuckled - wait to see what stunning atrocity awaits behind door #3. But many other options abound. FYI, though, it is considered bad form to confess the sins of others - even wayward souls like Steve-O.

Posted by: tdp at March 7, 2008 08:17 AM

Divide it up into categories and try to push through quickly or you'll be there all night.

You could bring a little crib sheet along with just the categories listed so you can stay on target.

Posted by: Babs at March 8, 2008 01:22 PM

Be at peace! Be at peace! Be at peace!

You've already gotten lots of good advice, so that's all I'll proffer myself. I make a habit of going every other week, and yes, I get nervous every time. But what mercy, what kindness I experience in the confessional, and how much lighter my soul feels on leaving!

I much prefer confessing behind a grille, but that option's not available here in France. I'll remember you in my prayers, and am terribly excited for you...

Posted by: Christine at March 11, 2008 08:36 AM