“I’ve got some good sins to confess today,” announces Callum. He and Duncan are racing up to the confessional. They want to be first in line.

Good sins?” I repeat in dismay. “You shouldn’t have any sins!”

But I know what Callum meant. Sometimes sins are so obvious. They come to mind after only a short examination of conscience. Confessing them is very straightforward.

I was telling this story, which happened some years ago, to Father S. “Adults find it so much more difficult to work out what their true sins are,” I observed.

“Perhaps they don’t want to look too closely,” suggested Father. “We are all good at not seeing things which make us uncomfortable.”

Gemma-Rose and I had gone to ask Father if she could make her First Confession. “I think she is ready. She knows what she needs to confess but she is just a bit nervous about the whole procedure. She’s afraid she might forget what she’s supposed to do and say.”

Father reassured Gemma-Rose: “There’s no need to be anxious. I’ll help you.”

What a difference to my experience when I entered the Church almost 20 years ago.

I had attended all the RCIA classes. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. But no one mentioned confession. A date was set for my entry and I went to see Father M. “Can you help me with confession, Father? I really don’t know what to do. I’ve never even seen a confessional.”

“Don’t worry about confession, Sue,” Father replied. He didn’t add, “I’ll help you.” Rather he continued, “Your entry into the Church is a joyful occasion. We’ll talk about confession at a later date.”

I can hear your horrified shouts. I entered the Church and received Jesus for the first time without going to confession! I am filled with horror too. But all those years ago, I just didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. I trusted the priest.

Immediately after becoming a Catholic, we moved house and moved parish. I still had not been to confession. I knew when confessions were heard but I didn’t have the courage to go. I needed someone to take me by the hand, show me the confessional and explain each step of the Sacrament to me.

In the end, I rang the parish priest Father G, and made an appointment to meet with him to discuss all the things that were worrying me.

“I’ve never been to confession, Father and I feel so uncomfortable and need help.”

“You entered the Church but you’ve never been to confession?”

I felt like I had committed a huge crime. Father probably thought that I’d got into the Church under false pretences. I wasn’t worthy enough to belong.

“You should never have been allowed to enter.”

I wanted Father to take me to the confessional and explain everything and hear my confession. Instead he told me he had another appointment and gave me some pamphlets to read.

I went home in despair. I still didn’t have the courage to go to confession and now I couldn’t go to Mass either. I couldn’t face the priest again. I stopped going to Mass completely. But there was a huge, sorrowful hole inside me. I needed God. I considered converting again just so I could go to church once more. Perhaps the Anglicans would have me. They didn’t worry about confession. But in my heart, I wanted to be a Catholic.

We moved house yet again and I made friends with a very dear Catholic who listened to my story with great compassion. She didn’t judge me. She just wanted to help. “I’ll ring Father P, “she announced. “We’ll soon have this sorted out.”

And within hours I was at the church telling Father P my whole sad story. I cried as I told him about how excited I was when I became part of the Catholic family. And how quickly that feeling turned to despair and unhappiness.

Father P was wonderful. “God allowed this to happen,” he said. “It isn’t your fault. Perhaps there was a reason. Anyway, we can soon put things right.”

Minutes later I had made my first confession. I flew out of the church to rejoin my new friend who was playing with my little ones in the presbytery garden. There was a huge grin on my tear-stained face. My soul was crystal clear. My heart was light. Life was suddenly so very beautiful. I couldn’t wait to go to Mass and receive Our Lord worthily and to say, “Thank You.”

I am so glad my children have been able to look forward to their first confessions with eagerness. They have never worried about ‘getting something wrong’. They know that confession is a real gift.

But back to Gemma-Rose: She was preparing for her First Confession. She examined her conscience and decided to write a list of her sins. ”I can read it to Father and then I won’t forget what to say,” Gemma-Rose explained to me.

“Do you want me to help you write the list? I could spell the words for you.” She is not a good speller at all.

“No, thank you. It’s my confession!” came the reply. “I don’t want you to know my sins.” She started writing and soon had her list finished.

Yesterday, Gemma-Rose made her First Confession. Andy had to open the confessional door for her because she was too short to reach the handle. He left the door ajar so she could get out again and then returned to the pew. A few minutes later, our daughter appeared with a huge grin on her face. She looked like a girl with a crystal clean soul.

Later I asked Gemma-Rose if it had been difficult. “Oh no, Mum. Father helped me. It was easy. The hardest bit was trying to read my list of sins. I couldn’t work out what I’d written.”

I could just imagine it: a long silence in the confessional while she tried to decipher the strange looking words. What if Gemma-Rose had decided to push the list through the window to him, saying, “Father I can’t read my sins… Can you?”

What would he have said?

PS No disrespect is intended towards the priests. My inexperience and inability to explain my needs may not have helped the situation

Post a Comment

  1. Sue, That is ever so cute of gemma- rose. I remember Brid was similar, no they are my sins. and yes she wrote them and yes I understand exactly what you are saying, there is no direspect at all. I loved hearing your story...Thank you for sharing

  2. You are kind to add that you mean no respect to the priests- but what they did was wrong! I am so happy that you 'made it right' with the other priests. What all priests need to realize is that we WANT confession, penance and all of that- we know it is good for us

  3. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is good to share. It was a heart breaking time but I am so very glad I persevered. I have been very blessed.

    I hope you didn't mind the use of your name, Priest's Wife, in the previous post. Thank you for visiting and reading my story.

    Thank you, Leanne!

  4. Oh Sue! Thank you for writing this. I had a *very* similar experience...that sometimes I'm still confused about. I was not invited to make my first confession before coming into the Church--but, some have said that is because I was baptized at the same time and so all my old sins were washed away? But, oh how much easier it would have been to have had that first confession at the very beginning. I came into the Church in my son's hospital room while he was being treated for Leukemia. I didn't complete RCIA. I loved the Church, and I had read A LOT, but after coming into the Church and moving 500 miles away a few weeks later I was so scared...I felt so unworthy...I stopped going to Mass...I considered converting to the Anglican Church, but I knew in my heart it wasn't enough! When I finally worked up the courage to talk to a priest he had a strong reaction to the fact I'd been allowed into the Church...but, he immediately softened and had me give my first confession going back as far as I could remember. I walked out of that Church light as a feather...even then, though, it was quite a journey before I found my way all the way into the fold of the Catholic Church. It need not be so hard. I made it harder than it was, I know that now. But, there were misguided (and sometimes mean!) priests and parishoners along the way and my faith (and heart!) were so fragile at the time. I'm rambling here in your comments seciton...I'm sorry! But, it means so much to read your story and to know that I wasn't alone...and to share in your joy at your daughter's first confession. My son's was last year and it was so joyful for all of us. Now he positively looks forward to the confessional. To be honest, I still have to work up the courage every time! :)

  5. Leslie, thank you so much for sharing your story. I worry sometimes that no one is interested in hearing about my mistake filled life but I think we have to have courage to share our experiences. In this way we connect with others and find out we are not alone. It is so very encouraging when I find someone who understands! I think that converts need to learn not only the truths of the Church through such courses as RCIA, but also help in the practical side of things is needed. Everything is so new and there is so much to learn. I knew I was in the right place. I just yearned to join the Catholic family. But I was scared too. New Catholics need to be nurtured and supported. It is such a shame that what should have been the best experience of our lives is clouded by so many sad memories. But we got there in the end! And as Father P said, God allowed it to happen and good may come out of it. Like helping other converts through your blog! God bless, my friend.

  6. A beautiful and honest story. You speak from the heart without trying to cover up or make excuses.

  7. Thank you, Noreen. Sometimes I write thinking I am the only person who feels this way and what will people think of me. It usually turns out I am not alone and it is always worth being honest if a connection is made with someone else. God bless!

  8. I really enjoyed this one, Sue. Confessions can be extremely daunting as a first timer, or in my case with a lapse of about 15 years. I've heard several protestant friends say how good confession must be. I don't know about others, but I find that the harder a sin is to confess the more grace and peace I feel afterward.

  9. So true, Tricia! I have another confession story brewing away. Perhaps it will come together today. God bless!

  10. This is the sweetest story. It seems that Father P is a really good priest. How blessed you all are. Is he still at your parish?

    1. Dana,

      Father P was indeed a great help to me. He is no longer our parish priest but we have been blessed with many other good priests in the years since my first confession.

      Thank you for your comment. I always enjoy 'chatting' with you!


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