You have so much power. You have the power to choose what you eat, how you exercise your body, and how and who you forgive, even if it’s yourself. Bear with me, I’m going to give you something so light, you’ll be breathing easier at the end of this post.
I went to confession this past Sunday. As you know from a past post on faith and boredom and another on divine noticing, I’m re-examining or reviving my spirituality. It’s been completely organic. I’m a bit unplugged about it intellectually at times, but it seems my spirit’s plugged in, even if I don’t always understand it in my mind.
That context is to tell you I seem to have completely forgotten things about religion. Like Catholics go to confession during Lent. It makes sense that the 40 days and nights prior to Easter, a time of rebirth and celebration, we would ask for forgiveness and absolution from our sins.
Lots of folks through the years have said to me in jest [somewhat], “Oh, you Catholics have it easy. You sin, then you go to confession and you get a fresh start.” Catholics, however, layer guilt like a yogurt parfait: one layer of forgiveness, a layer of residual guilt for the sin, a layer of Hail Mary in an act of contrition and so on. If you have never been to confession, it’s basically a chance, usually face-to-face these days, to speak to a priest. You tell him, “Bless me father, for I have sinned, it’s been x number of days since my last confession.” Then I think from my childhood days, you list the commandments you’ve broken. Since I’m not exactly on my game with all of the rules, I remembered the opening and then just honestly shared my struggles. I talked about the areas of my life where I’ve fallen. I asked for help—that is an incredible power. I asked for help to forgive. I know confessions are private. However, I’ve been woken at 5:00am to write to you, so I believe that I’m called to share this part of my confession. The priest was a little old school, yet firmly sitting in true Buddhist compassion for me. I could feel it. He said some wonderful things in response that were not perfunctory. And then he instructed me to say three prayers, one of which I didn’t know, so he gave me a pass on that one.
I went to the front of the church (this is after mass) and pulled a kneeler up to a saint’s statue. It was Saint Martin. Above him was St. Joseph and next to him was St. Cabrini, a woman. I was verklempt and crying quietly in this truly cleansing way. Then my mind took over and I started wondering about St. Martin and St. Cabrini. My cousin works at Cabrini College and that was my main mental reference. I didn’t even know there was a St. Cabrini. Then I started thinking about how saints are like the superheroes of the Catholic Church. I spend quite a bit of time now learning about Marvel and DC Comics superheroes and villains. I thought about how I need to research some of these saints. I bet they have cool powers. My tears had stopped during this mental adventure.
And then I remembered I just went to confession. I remembered that I had an assignment. So I began with a speedy rhythm to recite the “Our Father.” That prayer is one of the coolest during mass because we all link hands across the church and sing it. I can truly feel superpowers when linked with others in this prayer. It’s like grace-on-demand. So I’m in the midst of this prayer and I get to:
Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
And then I said, “Holy smoke!” and started crying again. I think I felt that prayer for the first time in my life. I glimpsed in my soul the idea that I truly want to be forgiven. And then [this is the holy smoke part], I want to be forgiven so much, the same way, that I want to forgive those who have trespassed against me.
Do you feel me?
I was astounded at the idea of true forgiveness and absolution. I felt lighter. I felt cleaner, clearer. What if I let go of all of these feelings? What if I forgave everyone who has hurt me in my whole entire life? What if I let go of the pain in my shoulder blade, the thoughts that drill in my head about people who have let me down. What if I applied that same compassion to myself in feeling all of that toward those whom I perceive have injured me in some way? What if I let go of the guilt? What if I dumped that yogurt parfait in the trash and started all over again?
What if I make a fresh dish in the kitchen of my soul? What would it look like? What are the ingredients to feel fresh and light?
My friends, you do not have to be Catholic or go to confession to lighten your load. Ask for help. Ask for forgiveness. Forgive those who have made the most egregious errors against you. Write it down. Keep it in a journal. Or use a piece of paper. Throw it away. Burn it if it makes you feel better.
Do you want to see how this manifests? I finished my prayers, my acts of contrition. I had received a text during mass which I could not open. And truthfully, I only check my phone during mass for family emergencies. I tried to check the text on the way out, but my old simple phone doesn’t always unlock. I pressed and pressed the button as I left the foyer. It didn’t open until I stepped outside into the sunlight.
I had received an apology text from a family member.
Again I say, “Wow.”
I wrote back, “I forgive you, Sweetness.”
Try it. Say it. I forgive you. Even if the you, is YOU. Taste the sweetness. It’s delicious. I promise.