Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sacraments of Healing

Sacraments of Healing, Booklet Seven, "What Catholics Believe: An Introductory booklet series", The Catholic Enquiry Centre, Wellington, www.catholicenquiry.org.nz


"No, it wasn't a dream," said Edmund.
"Why not?"
"Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another."
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

"Crap," I thought, when Betty Duffy pointed out that I was not, as I thought, dashing off occasional notes to friends, but in some sense Blogging My Conversion, "now, since it's the next way-point, I'm going to have to write about First Confession, aka Reconciliation, aka (in these parts) Hohou Rongo, and I really don't want to do that."

People say they loved their first confession, and some practical people advise taking a large handkerchief, but my problem is with the examination of conscience. Fifty-mumble years old, committing mortal sins on a regular basis: it's Zeno's Paradox. However fast I tally the sins, I'll never catch up to the present. It's dreary work, too. It consists largely of discovering that I am far from being the person I think I am (mostly moral) or the person I pretend to be (mostly harmless).

I've also made the strange discovery that, however intimidated I have been all these years by my mother-in-law, she is more frightened of me. Poor woman. All these years when we could have been, if not besties, then at least comrades-in-arms.

But my worst problem has been a failure of memory altogether. This is partly because the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity combined with the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness adds up to excusing moral failure as unavoidable while passing the penalty Higher Up. Why register failure when the books are cooked? But some sin is so heinous that the Calvinist cop-out cannot cope, and then memory corruption kicks in for self-protection. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

So, I had such a sin straitjacketed away, and I'd half-forgotten it. It was pretty bad. It was bad, and not pretty. It was the work of a moment. I cried off and on for about a year after I committed it. If I'd managed to fornicate on the Sabbath while committing it, it would just about be a perfect strike against the decalogue. Somehow I had suppressed the memory till this very week, till this day, Sunday.

I had forgotten it; God had not: still merciful, and still with the sense of humour. "Father," I said to our priest after Exposition today, "since I'm coming into the Church on Saturday, when would it suit you to hear my confession?" "Monday, after Mass?" he said. "Yes," I said, thinking of my half-finished Examen and this unsavoury addition, "I think I can pull it together by tomorrow." "Oh, no, how about Thursday? I have a funeral on Wednesday," he said. "Yes," I said, eyes widening a bit, "fine."

Friends, if I read this elsewhere, I would suspect the writer had sugared it up to make a better story, but I assure you this is not the case. I will be confessing this awful sin, one which has roiled years on my soul, on the ten-year anniversary of my committing it - to the very day.

See you on the other side - after my un-dragoning.

5 comments:

Pentimento said...

If it makes you feel any better:

1) Father has heard that sin before.

2) God wants us to trust in His mercy and to truly believe in His forgiveness. In fact, He said something to St. Faustina along the lines of how much it hurt Him when we mistrust these great gift.

xo

Pentimento said...

I.e., hurts Him when we mistrust these great gifts. Something is wrong with my morning typing, sorry.

BettyDuffy said...

I feel honored that you are sharing your conversion story here in our company.

And I second P's encouragement.

I did a "general" confession about ten years ago, which is similar to what you're going through, I think. It looks back at one's entire life from the age of reason to current day. And I realized (I had forgotten, repeatedly) that a beastie has followed me my entire life. Once identified and acknowledged, I began to break free from it's various permutations. It is a grace to see your entire life in the light of Christ, to examine patterns of grace and sin, to know yourself--even when yucky things come to light.

I have wondered at times how anything good has managed to come out of my life--and doing this consecration to the Virgin thing I've been doing, it's become clear how God's mercy extends throughout space and time, sanctifying past, present and future, in spite of ourselves.

MrsDarwin said...

Otepoti, I've been thinking about you and praying for you as your entrance into the church approaches.

It's funny, rather -- as I'm reading this I'm casting back in my life for patterns of sin, and I've just remembered something, a sin I paid almost no attention to at the time, as I was youngish, which has set a pattern of sin in my own life. Now I think I need to sit down and seriously examine all my faults and trace them down to root causes, or to the earliest remembrance of commission. Bet I'd dredge up a lot of silt that way, but the process of undragoning means cutting through many layers of crusty, baked-on sin to get to the heart of the matter.

Seamus said...

Otepoti, I am praying for you.