|Image by Dwayne (twostoutmonks) on Flickr.|
Confession can be intimidating for me, even after 40 years in the convent--despite Bishop Sheen's famous remark that hearing the confessions of nuns is like "being pelted with marshmallows." (Memo to Bishop Sheen: You don't have to live with those marshmallows 24/7.) I was once refused absolution by a priest who said that what I confessed weren't sins. It took a long time for me to get the courage to enter the confessional again, and I certainly avoided his. (If he had lived with me, I think he would have rethought his words.)
Still, my confessions these days usually focus less on "what I have done" and more on "what I have failed to do." (So much easier to create a laundry list of sinful deeds and words!) And yet today's confession really was (mostly) about those elusive sins of omission. I am beginning to suspect that if regrets are possible in Heaven, what I might regret most is not loving, praising and thanking God enough during the relatively short span of my life on earth. (Prayers of praise are definitely going to factor into my New Year's Resolutions this year!)
As I prepared for the sacrament, I also reflected on the situation of some of our elderly sisters, particularly those with profound dementia. How can they confess anything, when they do not even remember if they went to Mass that morning (or if they ate)? And yet they do line up, week after week, outside the designated room on the Infirmary floor. It occurred to me this morning that the Sacrament of Penance is such that even those sisters can receive it fervently and fruitfully. They may not remember any particulars, but living so much in the present moment they only have to respond to the priest's invitation to bring "all the sins of your past life" to the Lord, and "make a good act of contrition". I would bet that the most profound acts of contrition in the house come from those sisters, who have nothing left to give but their hearts.
And that's gift enough for the Lord on the feast of his Nativity.