A letter originally sent to some dear friends on Feb 14th, 2008.
Jo and Lynda,
As you guys know, I'm a volunteer for Hospice. About a year ago I was working in the Bratsburg wing of the Emmanuel Lutheran home, which is where they house the people with Alzheimer's. One of the men that I working with was a devout Christian, albeit a Lutheran. I would visit him every Friday during my lunch hour. If he was asleep during my visit I would pray a rosary over him or read to him from the Bible. If he was awake, I'd talk to him, read the Bible or read from one of the books of poetry that he had written. These were humble books with humble poems. They proclaimed a love for God and a devotion to his family. I knew that this man loved Jesus and lived a pious life. He wasn't afraid to live his faith. But I was still concerned about his salvation.
It was still early in my RCIA process but I had discovered the importance of going to reconciliation to seek God's forgiveness. Since he had Alzheimer's, I worried that Al would never have the chance to confess his sins and have them forgiven by a priest (acting en personae Christu.) What if he intentionally committed a sin but forgot about it a minute later, and thus couldn't ask for forgiveness later?
Well, I thought long and hard about this stuff. I googled it and found nothing. So the following Saturday I went to confession. I had my sins to confess, but I wanted to talk to Fr. Vic about this as well. I explained the situation and my concerns to him and he replied thusly (paraphrased, of course): "First of all, you need to remember that God loves us and that he gives us these crosses to bear for our own good. God wouldn't give him Alzheimer's and then punish him for not doing
something that he couldn't actually do. Secondly, confession isn't for God's sake. It isn't for the sake of the Church. It isn't for my benefit. Confession is for you. Confession is a gift from God,
instituted by Christ, so that our hearts can be free of sin, even if just for a short amount of time."
So, if God loves us, but doesn't need us, then why do we have the sacraments at all? Precisely because God does love us and doesn't need us. All of the sacraments, from baptism to last rights, were given to us solely for our benefit. What benefit does reconciliation offer us, you might ask? Well, for 10 seconds, minutes, hours or even days, we are a free from sin as Jesus. We are as pure of heart as the Lord our Saviour. Think about that. For those 10 seconds everything in your
spiritual life is perfect. You've humbled yourself and asked for God's mercy, and he has granted it to you just like he promised that he would (Matthew 9:6 & 16:19.)
Did you know that there are three types of sacraments in the Catholic Church? There are the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist), vocation (holy orders and marriage) and healing (last rights and reconciliation.) That's right, reconciliation is a sacrament of healing, not a sacrament of obedience. Throughout this country, every single Saturday, priests sit waiting in confessionals to help us heal our souls. To cleanse us of the internal divisiveness of sin.
I know that preparing for confession can be a scary thing. I don't like doing it either. But when Fr. Vic (or whichever priest you choose as your confessor) says "I absolve you of your sins." - I can't tell you how powerful that is. It wasn't enough that Jesus died for my sins. No, He loves me so much that he created this sacrament so that I could feel His love and mercy here on Earth. I promise you that if you go to reconciliation this Lenten season, it will be something that you
When you go, take you children with you. The girls probably haven't gone to confession since their First Communion. Give them the gift of receiving God's forgiveness. Take the boys too. Let them sit quietly in the pews while you're in confession. Let them learn from your good example that it is important to ask God for his mercy and forgiveness. Let them learn that we cannot be justified in ourselves.
Finally, if you don't want to do reconciliation with Fr. Vic, then do it over at Risen Christ or John Paul II or out in Columbia Falls. It doesn't matter which priest you go to: in this sacrament they are all acting as the 'person of Christ' (en personae Christu.) I've got materials that can help you to prepare for it. Oh ya, when I told the priest that I was going to my first confession ever (at the age of 33), he was thrilled. He was so excited that I came back to the God. You won't be in trouble for not having gone for so long. You'll be like the prodigal son, and the priest will be grateful to see you there.
I love you guys and I want the absolute best for you and your families. At Easter we celebrate the death of Jesus so that our sins may be forgiven. I beg you to accept his forgiveness though his holy sacrament.
Your brother in Christ,
If you want your children to be safe, teach them to love Jesus.