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Battling the Confessional Anxieties

“Hurry up guys, let’s go!” I hollered at my 4 oldest kids while tripping into my heels for First Friday mass. We left 45 minutes early and had a 15-minute drive, which left us with 30 minutes to get to confession before mass.

We ascended up the side steps into the gorgeous gothic revival church. As soon I entered the nave, I saw the 15 people standing in the confession line and instinctually whispered, “Crap!” My cheeks turned red, and I prayed nobody had heard my knee-jerk expression.

We started bee-lining for the line before it grew any longer. And it did! As soon as we took our places at the back, another couple slid in right behind us. Fortunately, I had done a thorough examination of conscience the night before, and because my noisy brain does well with lists, had my list in hand. This allowed me to fully participate in the rosary. I was standing in line when the rosary started and still standing in line when the rosary finished.

As usual, my heart starts to pound when I look down at my watch and discover that there are 12 minutes until the start of mass and 5 people in front of me! What do I do? Keep standing and make the congregation wait if I go a little over the start of mass time because I have been standing in these uncomfortable heels for 30 minutes? But that’s not fair to everyone else so I should go sit down. But I’m so close!! What do I do??!! I replay this conversation in my mind over and over in my head while I continue to wait. My heart beats at an obnoxious tempo. I feel a little relief every time the little red light clicks off and the next person walks forward. It's a race against time now with 4 minutes until the start of mass and my son is still in the confessional. My anxiety is so high at this point that I almost have an out-of-body experience.

Whew, this time I was able to sneak in in time.

I settle back into the pew and thank Jesus for His healing sacrament and do my penance. But I can’t stop thinking about how ironic it is. I get such bad anxiety every time I go. I worry that I am inconveniencing the priest if I call to make an appointment, but I also worry that I won’t get through the line in time when I go during scheduled times. I worry that I will forget my Act of Contrition. I worry that I took too long. I worry that I did something wrong when I didn’t take long enough! The process of getting to the sacrament of healing is anxiety-inducing, but once I leave the confessional, The Lord’s Mercy washes over me and His peace fills my troubled soul. I feel lighter on my feet and butterflies in my belly. I am filled with supernatural joy and feel ready to take on whatever spiritual battle the Lord has ready for me.

My sentiment is only for a brief moment, but enough to make all the troubles to get there worth it.

I think of other hurting souls who, too, are scared to approach our Lord in such an intimate way. Maybe they have been away from the sacrament of Penance for a year, or 5 years or even 20 or more. I can’t imagine the anxiety that they must be experiencing. And what about the souls who have very grave sins to confess? Because of our human nature, it is completely reasonable to be embarrassed.

Should these feelings keep us from receiving the healing power of confession? Absolutely not! These are the very souls whom our Lord thirsts for from the cross. These especially are the lost sheep in the fold, whom the shepherd loves so much that he leaves behind His other 99 lambs to seek out. His immense love wants to blot out all of our mistakes and past sins and set us free to live a new life in Him. Every time we experience the power of the sacrament of penance, we become a new creation in Christ.

The anxiety that we experience about this life-changing sacrament is a combination of our prideful human natures and the devil trying to keep us from receiving the abundant graces given in Reconciliation. If you have been away from this sacrament for a while, take courage! Be brave and strong in the faith. Face your fears and receive the power of God’s love and mercy. He has been waiting for you to come home and be healed.

Until next time,

Leah Brix

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