I can remember looking at my newborn son in the NICU, his little body pierced by tubes and needles, connected to his life support system, and thinking, “Thomas, you are suffering because of sin.” A day later, I knew sin had caused his death.
My baby didn’t die as a result of a sinful act. He wasn’t the victim of violence or evil. He died a natural death caused by a health problem: Thomas was born with lungs too small for independent breathing and so he could never have lived. So why did I think my son died because of sin?
As I watched Thomas’ chest inflating and deflating, a machine taking the place of his inadequate lungs, I thought about what should have been, what would have been… if sin had not entered the world and upset the balance of nature. There would have been no disease, no pain, no newborn babies fighting for their lives, no mothers sorrowing, no tears, no death.
But there is sin and Thomas did die and I suffered.
I have always been a reader and I searched for books to help me cope with my sorrow. But in those early weeks of grief, I found it difficult to concentrate. Every time I opened a book and started to read, my mind almost instantly drifted away. The words were just a blur on the page. And then one day I picked up a book called Looking for Peace? Try Confession by Mary Ann Budnik. From the very first page, the words grabbed my attention.

A book on confession? I would never have imagined such a book could have helped me, a bereaved parent. But it did.
It’s been 12 years since I read that book and so the details have faded. But I do remember how engaging and easy the book was to read, and how it re-ignited that dying spark: my interest in life. Perhaps the book made me realise that the problem of evil in the world can only be put right by each and every one of us taking responsibility for our own sin.
I thought about Thomas dying in a world upset by sin and Jesus dying on the cross because of sin… and I didn’t want to sin. I also didn’t want to suffer but I realised that I was able to offer my sufferings to God, and this gave them value and helped me bear them. I knew I could unite my sufferings with those of Jesus to atone for sin.
Looking for peace? Yes, I wanted to find peace.
I still struggle with sin. I know it will be a lifetime battle. But I did find peace. I found it in an unexpected place. I found peace in the confessional, in the sacrament of reconciliation.
The above paragraphs form a post I wrote yesterday for the Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears blog. Since I published them I have been thinking…
I think back to those early months of grief. I felt so tied to God. I couldn’t survive without Him. He was my only hope. I wanted to love God with all my heart. I wanted to be a saint.
I still do love God and want to be a saint but little things have slipped between me and God.  Maybe I think I no longer need Him as much as I did. Maybe I am not quite as horrified by sin as I was when I looked down at my son who died because of sin, or when I looked up at Jesus who died for my sins on the cross... when I begged Him to save me.
There is so much sin in the world. We are fighting so many evils with prayer and by active means. But sometimes I forget that conquering sin is more than signing petitions or joining prayer chains. It needs to start with me… in the confessional.
God of mercy and compassion,
Look with pity upon me,
Father, let me call Thee Father,
'Tis Thy child returns to Thee.

Jesus, Lord, I ask for mercy;
Let me not implore in vain;
All my sins, I now detest them,
Never will I sin again.

By my sins I have deserved
Death and endless misery,
Hell with all its pains and torments,
And for all eternity.

Jesus, Lord, I ask for mercy;
Let me not implore in vain;
All my sins, I now detest them,
Never will I sin again.

By my sins I have abandoned
Right and claim to heav'n above.
Where the saints rejoice forever
In a boundless sea of love.

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  1. Sue, Before I became a Catholic, I thought confession was really harsh - like a punishment. But, now I know how it keeps me close to Jesus, especially when I feel spiritually dry. Funny how I was so wrong.

    God bless:)

    1. Vicky,

      Sometimes I watch my younger girl coming out of the confessional. Their faces are aglow and they literally skip back to the pew to say their penance. They have no hesitation whatsoever about making a confession. If only we all felt this way! Yes, confession does keep us close to Jesus.

      I just love the above hymn. When I hear it I feel I will never sin again. Of course, I do. But Jesus is waiting there in the confessional...


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