The Catholic Commentator  

As the penitential season of Lent approaches, Catholics whose faith is sparked by the sacrament of reconciliation say it is not a dark moment of admitting and being sentenced for sins, but a “light bulb moment” when they are aware that God loves them.  

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As strongly advocated by Pope Francis, pictured administering the sacrament of reconciliation, going to confession is a good way to receive spiritual healing. Photo by CNS News

 

“When I was a child growing up in the 50s, the sacrament of confession was viewed quite differently from how it is perceived today,” said Elaine Abadie, a member of Ascension of Our Lord Church in Donaldsonville and St. Francis of Assisi Church in Smoke Bend. “In my family, we usually went to confession every other week. And, before going, mama would always sit us down and tell us our sins and how many times we committed them. Going to confession was something to be feared because God was there judging us, so we had better be sorry.  

“Once I reached high school, I went, along with the student body at Ascension Catholic, to confession once a month. Mama no longer told me my sins.”  

An experience in the confessional compounded this fear for Abadie.  

“I continued monthly (confessions) in the early years of my married life until one fateful Saturday. After (my husband) Jimmy came home from work that Saturday, I went to church for confession. After confessing my sins to the new, young assistant priest, he asked me if that was all. I answered yes. Almost apologizing, I told him that I was a stay-at-home mom with three children under the age of three. I told him that my husband worked six days a week while I took care of the children and household duties.  

“His response to me shocked me. He said that I was wasting his time. From that day on, I only went to confession once a year to fulfill my obligation.”  

She added, “I now realize what a mistake that was. How different the sacrament of confession is now (that the truth) has been revealed to me. Whereas early in my life I viewed confession strictly as a means to have my sins forgiven, I now know that this is a sacrament of mercy, love and grace.”  

Abadie and fellow Ascension Catholic/St Francis of Assisi member Connie Schudmak’s appreciation for the sacrament grew after reading “The Seven Secrets of Confession” by Vinny Flynn. They are using the book as a tool to help bring others to the healing light of its presence.  

“If you look for information in ‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church,’ You won’t find it (the sacrament of reconciliation) under ‘forgiveness.’ you will find it under the ‘Sacraments of Healing,’ ” said Schudmak. “When I read this I was encouraged because I seem to confess the same sins time after time.  

“If our culture would realize the richness of this sacrament, the line for confession would be out the door and out of sight. No wonder that the sacrament of reconciliation was my least understood sacrament and also many others too.”  

Speaking of the sacrament’s healing power, Schudmak said, “I experienced more than God forgiving my sins and washing me clean in this sacrament. You see, I was a nail biter since childhood. It seemed that I tried everything to break this bad habit, even wearing fake nails. Amazingly, after making a commitment to confession monthly, I noticed that I was not even tempted to bite my fingernails any longer. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I was healed. Yes, I eagerly claimed that healing of a 50-year plus habit. Praise God. We serve an awesome God who is filled with surprises and cares about all our struggles.”  

Even more important than the physical healing for Schudmak was the spiritual healing of her soul, and the resulting peace that has stayed with her.  

Such power of healing and peace comes from renewing our baptismal promises as we confess our sins, said Paula Fabre, principal of St. Francis Xavier School in Baton Rouge.  

“Once we have been baptized and we sin, we have to return to that baptism,” said Fabre. “You know God is a forgiving God and we have an opportunity to begin anew.”  

Fabre, who said going to confession is part of living out her faith, said she remembers how important the first sacrament of reconciliation was to her before she received her first Communion.  

“Every time we go, it should be just like that part of first Communion,” said Fabre.