5 Reasons Why I Hate Confession

confession

I’m not a regular to the confession lines at my Church.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sacramental value and beauty of the forgiveness of sins – I do.  If you’re struggling with going to confession I’ll be first in line to tell you about the incredible sacramental benefits and graces waiting to flood into your soul after you make a good confession.  But if there is one sacrament that I have to prepare the most for, it’s the sacrament of reconciliation. If you want my honest opinion, I’ll admit it…I hate going.

Confession means admitting I messed up and don’t have it all together
I’m a perfectionist so confession rips into my heart.  For the most part, I’m able to keep up a pretty good mask even when things are falling apart.  I’ll say ‘it’s fine’ or ‘I’m good’ when people ask how I’m doing.  So to go to confession and list areas where I’ve fallen means having to be vulnerable and admit that I’m not okay, and it’s not all good.

“A soul does not benefit from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble.  Pride keeps it in darkness.  The soul neither knows how, nor is willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own mercy.  It puts on a mask and avoid everything that might bring it to recovery.” (Saint Faustina) 

Confessions mean saying my sins out loud to the person the sin hurt the most

When I confess my sins in the confessional, the priest stands In Persona Christi, in the person of Christ.  This means that the priest does not represent himself, or give the words of absolution as Father so-and-so, but he speaks as the Other – as Christ.  This is beautiful.  But it also means that I whisper through the screen (or face to face) to the one who I hurt the most. I listen the words of the man I nailed to the cross with my sins.  Which is incredible for reparation and repair, and incredibly humbling.

Confession means admitting I haven’t improved much since the last time in the confessional.

For the majority of my confession, I spend time repeating the same sins that I said in confession the last time.  Pride. Envy. Pride. Selfishness. Pride.  Pride.  Pride.  It feels like I transform into  a broken record the minute I walk into the confessional.  When I really start to think about it, I discover that the reason I’m being repetitive is because I haven’t made a good effort to change.  I haven’t avoided occasions of sin, sometimes I’ve even encouraged them.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginnings of good works” (Saint Augustine) 

Confession means admitting I need help

I don’t ask for help often.  When I get to the point of vocalizing stress or worries, the levels of stress and worry have hit pretty high levels.  So to have to ask for help from Christ vocally is rough for me.  I know He knows about my imperfection, but vocalizing and actually asking for advice and help is a large step.  It is delving into humility, which given my top vice, is never easy.

“Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God” (Saint Pope John Paul II) 

Confession means I have to change

There is a line in the Act of Contrition that yanks at me every time I say it. “..confess my sins, do penance and amend my life.” Amend my life. Amend means to “alter by a formal procedure.”  The word itself is French, amender, around the early thirteenth century.   It meant “to free from faults, to rectify.”  To free…to walk free.  But that means that I shouldn’t desire to go chain myself again to the same sins.  I have to change my daily life and run away from those occasions of sin.  I have to change…

My thoughts, the intimate life of my soul, are torn this way and that in the havoc of change. And so it will be until I am purified and melted by the fire of Your love and fused into one with You.” (St. Augustine) 

Yet however many reasons I can come up with for not going to confession, I still need the sacrament.  In fact, my avoidance of the sacrament shows that my soul needs it even more than I think.  The devil doesn’t want us to go to confession – he doesn’t want us to repair our relationship with Christ.  My soul craves closeness with my maker, and sin blocks me from fullness of communion with HIM.

This weekend I’m headed to the confessional line…will you join me in the sacrament? 

Punctuated with Imperfect Hallelujahs

imperfect

I’ll admit it…I’m a perfectionist.  I’ve cried over a 79% grade on a draft of a paper, read through and edit my texts, and change outfits on average of two times before I leave the house.  I measure out things when I cook, (how can a recipe call for a pinch of salt? That’s just an open invitation for inaccuracy) hesitate to ask questions that will make me sound stupid, and write notes to myself on my hands because I cannot, will not forget anything.

On most days, instead of striving for sainthood, I strive for flawlessness.  Yet  when that impossible goal is missed, as it always will be on this earth, I’m left in a devastating tailspin, wondering what in the world I’ve done wrong.  I’m not perfect.  But I spend a lot of time beating myself up over times of inevitable imperfection.

God craves the raw us.  The struggling, imperfect, help-me-I-can’t-do-this-alone us that yearns for completion in His heart.  He stands as a father, watching out the window everyday for us to return to Him.  At the first glance of us, He bolts down the pathway, arms open, smile broadly reaching across His face, eyes crinkled with absolute joy at the return of His child.  The return of you. 

Striving for absolute perfectionism and believing it is possible to never mess up and always make the right decision is an insult to God.  By believing you can be perfect, you’re saying ‘I’ve got this. I don’t need help.  I’ll figure it out.  This shows an inadequate gratitude for a God who poured Himself into humanity so that He could save you from your imperfection.

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. (CCC 2015) 

What is at the root of perfectionism? Pride.  There is no holiness without renouncing oneself.  Pride loves the self, and skirts away at the signs of mortification.

So it is not a surprise that I struggle with both of these issues.  I’ll be the first to admit that my pride has squelched the joy out of living multiple times.  It’s the sin that tells me I do not need the grace of the sacrament of confession, and is the first out of my mouth when I finally drag myself into the confession line.  Pride says you can achieve perfection.  Pride says you don’t need anyone.  Pride says you’re the best already and there is no room for improvement.

And there couldn’t a bigger lie.  

Because pride leaves you worshiping yourself.  And you are far too loved by the Creator of the Universe to be the only thing standing in the way of eternal bliss.  You are far to intelligent and beautiful, mercifully forgiven and capable to abuse yourself by holding a standard of impossible perfection.

We are not called to perfection.  We are called to holiness.  As much holiness as we can possibly fit into our lives.  Shaken down and poured over holiness that soaks every aspect of our being – from the moment of the alarm going off in the morning to the last slow blink before closing your eyes at night.

Yet Matthew 5:48 says “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Isn’t that a call to perfection?  The Greek definition of the word ‘perfect’ (Telios) means ‘the full purpose’ or the ‘full vocation.’  So our vocation is to reach Heaven.  Strive for Holiness as your Heavenly Father is complete.  We are called to best-version-of-ourselves, dead on sprinting to Christ and His goodness.  We’re called to strive for the holiness of God while still acknowledging that until that final goal of Heaven is reached, we won’t be perfect as He is perfect.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13).

Let our lives be punctuated with the sound of imperfect Hallelujahs.  The joyful din of a people striving to sing the perfect song of God, despite the fear of falling short.  Be filled with the joy  of knowing the infinite mercy of a perfect God.  Know that our imperfections are not too big for Him to envelope in His goodness.  Lift your voice, as off-key as it may be, to the maker of the Heavens.

And know that it’s okay to not be perfect.  

 

Bind my Wandering Heart: Chained & Consecrated to Mary

chain

Over the past couple of weeks, The Blessed Mother and I have gotten a lot closer as soul friends.  The mornings that I have during my babysitting job are usually spent on a nature walk, where I say a rosary and chat with Mary.  We have quite a bit to talk about these days, with a lot of changes and vocation discernment.  Especially with my desires to stay home with littles, I wanted an example of someone who dedicated her life to the Lord’s vocational plan for her as a mother.

Who better to imitate than the Blessed Virgin herself? Her humility, gentleness, caring spirit and docility to God’s will are all character traits of hers that I am no where close to accomplishing myself.  Which is why I’m renewing my Marian consecration this summer and delving further into Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

What is Marian Consecration?

You’re renewing your what? If that’s the question you had after reading that last section, let’s take a crash course through what a Marian Consecration is.  St. Louis de Monfort, a French saint, had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.   He introduced the concept of consecrating oneself to Mary in the 18th century, and the practice has only bloomed from then.  Great saints such as Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Maximilian Kolbe have entrusted themselves to Jesus through Mary.

Louis de Monfort’s practice of total consecration is made up of seven components: acknowledging one’s own unworthy state, deepening one’s faith like Mary did, giving God pure love, becoming totally confident in God and Mary’s abilities, joining with the spirit of Mary, transforming into the likeness of Christ, and giving all the glory to Christ.

The book that I use for my Marian Consecration is by Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.  It’s called 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration.  It goes through St. Louis life, as well as some major rock star saints who loved the Blessed Virgin.  After 33 days of preparation, you end on one of the great Marian feast days and consecrate yourself to Mary at the end.

A Marian Slave

After my first Marian consecration last summer, I adventured down to the local hardware store and picked out 6 inches of chain.  I looped it around my ankle and used a pair of pliers to set it in place.  I plan on wearing it to the grave.

Let me tell you, it’s sometimes inconvenient wearing a chain around your ankle.  For instance, I usually have to buy a half size up on my shoes now that I have a chain to account for.  I know what you’re thinking: This seems a little extreme – a chain? What does it symbolize?

St. Louis de Montfort wrote about the practice of wearing a chain after the consecration prayer as a physical symbol of total consecration to Mary.

“Thus set free, we are bound to Jesus and Mary not by compulsion and force like galley-slaves, but by charity and love as children are to their parents. “I shall draw them to me by chains of love” said God Most High speaking through the prophet. Consequently, these chains are as strong as death, and in a way stronger than death, for those who wear them faithfully till the end of their life. For though death destroys and corrupts their body, it will not destroy the chains of their slavery, since these, being of metal, will not easily corrupt. It may be that on the day of their resurrection, that momentous day of final judgment, these chains, still clinging to their bones, will contribute to their glorification and be transformed into chains of light and splendor. Happy then, a thousand times happy, are the illustrious slaves of Jesus in Mary who bear their chains even to the grave.”

The chain on my ankle has become a symbol of something deeper – a desire to bind my wandering heart to Mary.  Why Mary? Why not directly to Christ? Because Christ loves His Mother.  One of my favorite stories about the interaction between Christ and Mary is John 2:1-12.  Mary sees the groom and bride have run out of wine.  So she turns to Christ and ask Him to work a miracle, even though it’s not His time yet.  She simply turns to the servants and says “Do whatever He tells you.”  Mary knows Christ’s heart – He is her son after all.  So who better to bind myself to? The Blessed Mother acknowledges my desires and heart aches and brings them before her son for me.  What a gem.

Do-it-yourself Consecration

Are you interested in consecrating yourself to the Blessed Virgin? Check out Deacon Keith’s article on more Marian theology.  After you’re ready to start your consecration, there are a couple of options.  You can go with the original St. Louis de Monfort’s approach,  join myself and Father Gaitley on the 33 day miniature retreat, and even focus on the most recent Marian Saint, Pope John Paul II with this specific retreat with his writings.

Femininity is Not a Hair Length

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When I was a senior in high school, I decided to chop all of my hair off.  It was shoulder length, a weird texture combination of frizzy and wavy, and in sore need of some attention.  I had dyed it every natural color under the sun, from blonde to black.  I’d straightened it, permed it, and generally abused it.  So off it went.  When the hairstylist turned my chair around and I saw short-hair-me for the first time, I fell in love with pixie cuts.  It was different.  It was unique.  It was…Chloe.

Short hair became my signature look.  I started college that fall and there were barely any other girls with short hair.  I stuck out and people remembered me pretty easily just based on my haircut.  My personal style evolved and my hair played a role in the shaping of my personal style.

After we got engaged,  I began to ponder what hair length I would want for the day of the wedding.  The question was further mulled over after the question that I heard over and over was ‘Are you growing your hair out for the wedding?’  So  I decided to try it.  After all, it had been almost four years since I had seen myself with long hair.  Things that I didn’t like about it could have changed.  Maybe the texture was different now.  Maybe I was more patient in dealing with that awkward stage between looking like Justin Bieber and rocking an #throwbackthursday 1980’s mullet.

But as the months between haircuts stretched on and on, I quickly realized that I am still not patient.  The more my hair inched along in growth, the more it didn’t feel like ‘me,’ it didn’t feel like a Chloe thing to do.  I prayed about it, asked for opinions and began to think about it quite a bit more than I had originally. 

Verily Magazine author Gail Werner wrote, “Historically, hair length has aligned itself with society’s notions of femininity. Consider the juxtaposition of the rebellious flapper bob of the 1920s with the more ladylike bouffant of the Gibson girl. Or how a pixie crop worn by Twiggy in the sixties was considered androgynous whereas the long hair and feathered bangs of the 1970s-era Farrah Fawcett was the epitome of sexiness.”  She’s right – we’ve fallen into the trap of connoting long hair with attractiveness, sexiness, desirability.

I desired that desirability, that beauty.  I was torn between wanting hair long enough that I could run my hand through it, but still loving how amazingly practical short hair is.  With the wedding day approaching, I wanted to be seen as beautiful, feminine.  But none of those things were found solely in the length of my hair.  And when I came to that realization, I ran to the salon (okay, Great Clips.  I’m in college, let’s be real).  The ladies there told me how much they had hoped I would keep my hair short for the wedding.  Leave it to hairstylists to know what’s on your mind.

But more important than realizing that it’s possible to have a pixie cut and still feel beautiful, I discovered that femininity is exponentially more than the length of one’s hair or even physical appearance in general
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Saint Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to women, in which he said, “Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!” We live in a modern era where beauty is the definition of success and desirability.  But you are worth more than what you look like.  You are a human being who inherently deserves dignity simply based on the fact that you are a child of God.

“It is thus my hope, dear sisters, that you will reflect carefully on what it means to speak of the “genius of women”, not only in order to be able to see in this phrase a specific part of God’s plan which needs to be accepted and appreciated, but also in order to let this genius be more fully expressed in the life of society as a whole, as well as in the life of the Church.” (JPII)

Femininity is found in giving hearts and kind words.  In sacrifice and thoughts.  In Marian examples.  In caring and living one’s life fully for Christ.  Yet our world sees those traits as weakness.  The radical feminist movement has labeled virtue as old fashioned and patriarchal.

True femininity, not what one looks like or the clothes one wears, but true femininity is found in the concept of motherhood.  

Alice Von Hildebrand wrote, “A woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.”

Perhaps that’s why the culture has reduced femininity to physical appearances.  Hair length is much easier to perfect than an interior life most assuredly.  Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Let us be elegant or die!” which accurately describes the fascination with the outward.  Defy the culture…turn the focus inward, to the interior.

Motherhood (spiritual or physical) is sacrifice.  It’s joyful suffering for the good of the Heavenly family and the eternal life that we’re working to.  That virtuous, adventurous life is a lot harder to grow than a couple more inches of hair.  And much more rewarding.