Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Some years ago, I learned that my birthday falls on a special day on the church calendar. We Episcopalians call it the "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed," or "All Souls Day." It's a good time to think about those who have gone ahead of us to the nearer presence of God. We remember how their lives had touched ours, and we have hope that we will see them again. I don't know a lot about the specific customs associated with "Dia De Los Muertos," or "Day of the Dead", but I do believe in setting aside time for remembrance, and not only on November 2.

Today I did something a little different on my birthday. Amidst the celebratory activities, I visited with Fr. Z and celebrated the Rite of Reconciliation, popularly known as Confession. Usually, this is something I do during Advent and Lent, but I felt a need to
closely examine and deal with some problems now.

The Catholics consider Reconciliation a sacrament, one of seven. Episcopalians don't see it as a sacrament (we recognize two -- Baptism and Eucharist), but rather a sacramental rite. To be honest, as a former Catholic, I'm more inclined to simply consider Reconciliation a sacrament, as I'm a bit fuzzy on the finer distinctions.

I think Reconciliation/Confession has been given a bum rap over the years. Certainly there have been instances of insensitive or punitive priests, but mostly, my experience has been that of cleansing of the sin that has cluttered my spirit. Sin separates me from my fellows and from God. I find it healing to expose the sin and repent. Of course, God forgives, and has forgiven, even without the presence of a priest. For me, it is useful to confess to someone who is, presumably, a bit further along the spiritual path than I am. It is humbling, and a bit embarrassing, to confess one's shortcomings to someone else. I'd just as soon try to ignore those shortcomings or concentrate on the other person's faults -- especially if the sin involves a conflict with another. When I come to a priest, I realize that God is working through him (or her) during the Rite of Reconciliation.

There is, also, the sanctity of the confessional. I know that my confession will not be part of conversations amongst my fellow congregants. While I know that I can avoid that problem by confessing privately to God (I don't say "directly to God" because I believe that confessing in the Rite is directly to God.), I do believe that another person can provide perspective that I can't usually get by myself.

Penance is also another aspect of the Rite that I appreciate. Not all priests use that word, but in their counsel there will usually be some concrete act I can do to make things right, or at least get on the right road towards that end.

So, I found that celebrating, yes celebrating, the Rite of Reconciliation was a a good addition to my birthday celebration. After all, what better way to celebrate my birth than to be reminded of my new birth in Christ?

Be blessed.

1 comment:

Helen said...

I too love the Sacrament of Confession. I often find that the priest is very helpful
Happy Birthday.