I hate waiting in line. I hate traffic, I don’t go to Chick-Fil-a because of the lines, and traveled 50 miles to Vernon to avoid DMV lines. (well, that and to be helped by the best employee of the state, sadly for me now retired) I don’t like lines. So lets talk confession.
Sacramental confession is of course dictated by Holy Scripture, Jesus leaves His apostles with the power to forgive sin, and James tells us we should be confessing our sins to others, ostensively to keep accountability in all our lives. Put the two together, and we have sacramental confession. This is not a big leap, putting these two passages together does not require a seminary education, it’s right in our faces when we read scripture. But we still avoid it. Protestants deny scripture and say it’s not necessary, even though most protestant denominations historically forced public confessions for “notorious sinners”. Of course the congregation would retain or absolve the sin, not a pastor, but I’m still opting for the booth, thank you very much! Catholics can’t brag here, we have confession readily available but go years without it.
So what on earth does this have to do with lines? Any catholic knows those “in the know” love confession. I was warned about the lines but somehow did not believe it was possible until I waited in them. My first Catholic confession had a combined line that would likely outnumber most Anglican Sunday attendances. For confession! Lines everywhere! They even have confession ushers to make certain nobody cuts or gets “out of line”, pardon the pun. So there I was, in a long line, and lots of sinners in front of me, which meant that they would take a lot of time in the confessional. (I of course had but a few to confess….) (OK there is another) As I sat there in the pew, sliding over inch by inch as the next penitent went into the confessional, I was bracing myself for the normal anger that brews within me when I am forced to wait; anger that never came.
As I sat there in the pew, what instead came is the realization of all that I have been given in the Catholic Church. I counted them, and this list continues to grow.
- I am no longer a part of a dying organization. I am not certain how this will sit with some, but I always had the feeling as an Anglican that I was in a bus that was losing parts as we went down the road. The more I tried to repair the vehicle, the more others broke it, vandalized it, and abused the poor old thing. At every stop more families would leave fearing for their lives. The more I spoke with management about an overhaul the more they cut the repair budget. I was tired of fighting a hopeless battle. In the Catholic Church, well, I just need one example, LINES AT CONFESSION. I am not alone over here! So many Catholics, of all type and nationality, and we all get along pretty well!
- Mary. I have always found the rosary key to my spirituality. From the moment I was struck frozen in time in front of the Tilma at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, I have been helped in prayer by our most blessed mother. Being a devotee to Mary in the Anglican Church is a practice in patience and understanding to say the least. If I had a penny for every time someone complained, screamed, argued, tried to block or loudly sighed when I prayed the rosary, preached on Mary, or dedicated a Marian statue I could have payed for the entire legal defense of the Anglican Church. The Catholic Church has the rosary daily at many of our churches. I have even walked in on accident on a rosary, it’s everywhere! Statues of our mother are some of the most respected and revered of all the fenestrations in the church. I am truly at home. But I should add, Stephanie does not share my devotion to Mary, and that is OK. As long as she believes what is stated in the creed and in the dogma, which she does, she can find her spirituality elsewhere, such as….
- Exposition of the blessed Sacrament. Weekly, sometimes daily, at a few places 24/7, the Catholic Church loves to adore the most blessed Sacrament. Again, like the rosary and confessions, these times of adoration bring Catholics out in the hundreds. It is a powerful thing to sit in prayer with so many, you can feel the Spirit move throughout the nave. Catholics take religion seriously, zealously even.
- The mass. The central expression of our worship of God. I was always told while I was Anglican that this was the part of the Catholic Church that I would dislike the most, as Vatican II “ruined” the mass. Absolutely false. First and foremost, if you like a high mass, smells, bells and all that, the Catholic Church offers this in not just one but two formats. First you have the Latin Mass (extraordinary form) that is usually present in one church in every diocese. I happened upon such a mass in Austin, and it was beautiful! It had every detail that an Anglican high mass would have and more; the more being people…it was a full house. But you say you like the high mass but you want it in English? The Ordinariate. The Anglican Ordinariate is a beautiful rite done skillfully mostly by former priests of the Anglican Church. This is also a service that has the music, and even some of the prayers of the Anglican Church, done in a most reverent fashion. After leaving the Anglican Church, I did feel a bit homesick after a time for the mass that I had grown up with. But after spending Sunday morning at St. Mary the Virgin Arlington or St Timothy Fort Worth, I was renewed in the knowledge that all I loved has made the journey to Rome. But now the shocker, I have found the Novus Ordo mass, the western rite (Pope Paul VI’s mass) to be a joy and a very worshipful experience. I was told I would hate it, but instead I love it! Yes, the music can be a trial, even at times pretty bad, but the liturgy is very close to Anglican Rite II and is a very friendly, joyful experience. Daily mass for me is novus ordo, Sunday mass is Ordinariate, I have it all!!
- The people. I loved my time with the MOGS at good Shepherd, and with BOSA at St Peter and Paul. I was concerned when I left if I would find as good of a group in the Catholic Church. The Knights of Columbus have been a great part of my Catholic life. The people I meet in general are a delight also.
So as I sat in line for confession, all of this (and more) came to mind. I started to realize how rich I was to be in the Catholic Church! When this reality hit, sitting in line was not a lesson in patience, but a chance to rest and know that God has given all this to me for my betterment and enjoyment.