Laura Mascari Teacher of Children and eternal Student of Christ
Photo/Image courtesy of Laura Mascari.
“Within her heart was a great need. Close at hand, within the veil of the confessional, was the relief. She flung herself down in the penitent’s place, and, tremulously, passionately, with sobs, tears, and the turbulent overflow of emotion too long repressed, she poured out the dark story which had infused its poison into her innocent life…And, ah, what a relief! When at last, the hysteric gasp, the strife between words and sobs, had subsided, what torture had passed away from her soul! It was all gone; her bosom was as pure now as in her childhood. She was a girl again.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
It was business per usual as I was waiting in line for Confession. I wanted to see the priest, receive my penance, and be on my way as soon as possible. I had been a gazillion times before, confessing the same sin over and over like a broken record. This time seemed no different than the others. I hear the recurring voice in my head: “You are a failure.” As I was waiting in line, I thought, “You know, it’s kind of annoying that some people treat Confession like a therapy session. There’s not much to confessing your sins. Plus other people are waiting in line, and you should be considerate of them!”
Finally, my turn approached, and I promptly confessed my sins to the priest whom I had never met before. After listening very intently, he looked at me with kindness and asked a very significant question:
“Do you have any wounds that keep leading you to this sin?
I was very caught off guard…but yet, relieved. I was being invited into a place of understanding. I no longer felt the need to hang my head. It was what my heart desired so profoundly…to be understood. I had wounds, yes. But finally, I was bringing them to light. After sharing a little more about myself, the priest explained that out of my wounds came lies. And out of those lies came action, namely sin. We talked about the lies I heard in my head, namely, that I was a failure. We spoke about why those have brought me to the same sin, over and over. It turns out, my sin was traumatizing me in a vicious cycle. “What Jesus has placed in my heart to tell you,” the priest said, “is that He has always found joy in you.” I knew at that moment, I was encountering Christ. He was merely using the priest as His instrument.
He finds joy in me. That was enough to break down the walls of numbness and self-defeat. At that, I could not hold back the tears. I noticed the priest began shedding tears, too. I could tell others of the all-encompassing love of God, but in my heart, I became convinced that I was the exception to it. I studied theology and read countless texts on God, but these only scratch the surface if they don’t make their way into the heart. Thankfully, when I had forgotten my dignity and worth in God’s eyes, I was able to rediscover it again in a real, tangible way in the Sacrament of Penance. That is what’s so beautiful about the sacraments – they are where Heaven and Earth meet.
"Many of us have that favorite reoccurring sin. Perhaps you, too, have felt like a failure in the confessional."
But know this: Satan will exhaust every means possible to get you to avoid Confession. Why? Because mercy is his greatest torment. He will have you believe that you are a failure. That you’ve confessed that sin too many times. That you are a lost cause. If you give him an inch, he will go a mile.
Confession is always a place of victory, not defeat. It not only forgives sins, but it also heals us. It’s the dignified place where one says, “I will keep trying.” And you know what? That’s what sainthood is. The saints weren’t perfect people. St. Paul hunted down Christians and killed them in his former life. And yet he says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Anyone in Christ is a new creation.” I left the confessional that day a new creation, remade in the image and likeness of God.
Photo/Image courtesy of Laura Mascari.
During the 1930’s, there was a Polish nun who received special revelations from Jesus and Mary inside her convent – her name was Faustina Kowalska. She would later be declared a saint in the Catholic Church for inspiring devotion to Divine Mercy. Throughout her diary, St. Faustina recounts Jesus pleading with her to tell the world of His great mercy, especially for sinners. He is not speaking of sinners as the secondary recipients. No, they have the right before others to His mercy. He instructs her to write:
“The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.” (no.723) -Jesus Christ to Sister Faustina
St. Faustina experienced tremendous torments at the thought of her own misery. In fact, many of the nuns in her convent dismissed her visions and assured her that Christ does not commune with souls as miserable as hers. Yet, it was through the abyss of her misery that Jesus wanted the power of His mercy to be shown.
If you feel like you are too far gone, remember that hope is not lost. Jesus Christ is waiting for you. Yes, you. The one that God has knit together in your mother’s womb with His infinite wisdom. He wants to set you free. Will you let Him?
“The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.” –Jesus to Saint Faustina, no. 699