"Confession is good for the soul," they say. I agree. I
also find that it helps us to live well no matter what our station or situation
in life, especially if we make it a time to move fully out of our comfort zone.
During Lent and Advent, nearby parishes regularly have
reconciliation services that allow us to reflect and prepare for these holy
seasons. Often, before our regular parish Saturday evening Mass, the sacrament
of reconciliation is offered, making it convenient to go to confession and Mass
in one trip.
This year, I want to make a robust effort to revisit the
sacrament of reconciliation when it might not be at the forefront of my
schedule or mind, or even be convenient. This decision has led already to humor
and grace and a tale to tell.
Saturday ended a week punctuated by heavy rain, wind and very
cool temperatures. I was snug inside, but decided to unwrap myself from the
comfort of home and go to confession. The church I selected was in a very
heavily trafficked area of the city. On a Saturday afternoon after a blustery,
stormy week, I realized it would be next to impossible to find a nearby parking
This got my mind a-worrying: Over Christmas, my car had been
burgled, and since then I'd been especially vigilant about keeping it close no
matter where I parked. But even with the rawness of my recent experience, I
still went forth (though I did faintly promise myself that if parking was a
problem, I'd try another church another time).
True to my hunch, traffic was thick and spaces all along the way
were full ... except as I turned the corner in the last block. Right in front
of the church was an empty parking space. I have to admit I was a little
anxious about what God had in store that it was so easy to park my car and save
me a long walk in the chill. But I had no excuse now.
This particular church had two confessionals at opposite sides of
the nave. I approached a gentleman sorting stacks of bulletins and asked him if
he knew on which side confession would be heard.
"Sometimes it's one, sometimes the other," he replied.
He glanced at me. "Sometimes both."
Was he being funny, or seeing something I didn't realize? I
laughed, nervously. "Oh, I only need one," I said.
Deadpan, he said, "I meant, sometimes there are two priests.
It varies." And he went back to sorting the bulletins.
I noticed there were others entering, so I sat in a pew and read
a page from the devotional I'd brought with me. Gradually, my breathing slowed
and I began to pray with my eyes fixed on the beautiful crucifix just behind
the altar. Mundane concerns faded as I remembered the magnificent sacrifice
made so that I could sit in silent reverence.
A feeling of disappointment washed over me as I realized how
small my thoughts had been before, when I'd worried about finding a parking
space. Such a petty thing, compared to Jesus' act of selfless love. And with
that realization, my whole body relaxed.
I could say that the reconciliation was in those moments before I
went to confession. But really the entire experience was necessary — the
private prayer, the reflection and the sacrament. Confession is good for the
soul. And it helps us readjust so that our lives focus, not on that proverbial
open parking space, but on the wide open arms of Jesus on the cross.
Pratt, whose website is maureenpratt.com, is an author and
The Light Is On
Catholic churches across the Washington metropolitan area
are open for quiet prayer and confessions on Wednesday evenings throughout