Yesterday I went to Westminster Cathedral to do my first ever Confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Well if you are going to do it, you may as well do it in style.
My first ever Confession with a living priest that is.
I sat waiting with interior self-conscious awkwardness, outwardly pretending that I was old hat at this. I seated myself cautiously in the little wooden row of seats, frozen stiff in fact, apart from shuffling bottoms down the line. There was some amazing celebration going on, the Cathedral was absolutely full. The time was about 3.00 ish or there abouts, on Saturday the 12th May 2012, (the anniversary of my Daddy’s departure from this world was exactly the same hour, 7 years ago to the day, at 3.10). I know he was with me. One, my father and my Father.
There was a sea of beautiful shining black glowing bodies all dressed in the brightest swags and flowers, in vivid colours and prints all celebrating. Celebrations which bathed the (goddess and godly) super athletic looking race with light. The light shining out through those bright white teeth, contrasting brighter still were their polished ebony skins, beautiful lives, rich, abundant, glowing. Love was all around in the air. Thank God for those big brown innocent children’s smiling eyes, that deflected my anxiety.
I had mixed feelings, feelings that fluctuated between quiet confidence and absolute fear. Complete interior calm and ridiculous interior chaos, whilst trying to outwardly look humble and friendly and good! The chaos was heightened and running parallel with the silence of prayer and the sacred theatrical celebratory Mass. I did actually wonder if I would make it to the end seat, where everyone (as a final plea for help and in true repentance) kneeled and prayed to be forgiven and saved, or if I would bail out. After all, my parish priest knows most of my sins, they are written all over me (wearing your heart on your sleeve does have some benefits). Instead I tried to spare my parish priest (and me) the acute embarrassment of having to line them all up shopping list style, one after the other, going right back to the beginning of time, and go instead to a stranger priest, and deliver him the cold bare anonymous facts.
Thank God Saint Thérese of Liseaux was there with me.
I felt truly vulnerable and awkward and regressed back to the little nine-year old child that was caught red-handed by her mother having stolen a packet of crisps – because she couldn’t choose between two flavours. On that occasion my mother having scolded me with hells fire, made me wait in agony until my father came home, and then proceeded to take me straight back to the shop, so that I could apologise for my crime and pay for the goods eaten. It was the two empty packets that betrayed me. Monster Munch and being dishonest have never cast the same spell over me ever again. As a result of my mother and fathers discipline, I now have a wonderful honesty that at times is crippling.
Any how, heart thumping louder and louder, breathing rate more and more visible through my clothing, I finally make it to the last chair. Ever such a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had written down the long list of my sins, I wanted everything covered. I knew I wouldn’t remember the prayers under pressure, so I wrote them down too, just in case. I could smell the scent of the polished wood before I even stepped into the little wooden antique portal, which may have disappeared into anywhere, although even in my sorry state, I knew I would be restored lovingly to life once again. Why was I so pathetically scared.
The door opened, the person stepping free walked away with a fairly regular kind of undamaged look on his face. Phew. I stepped in, list in hand, mortified, “Dear Fr forgive me for I have sinned, please forgive me as I am a little bit nervous, this is my first ever confession”. I could see that darling antique priest and his kindly face through the grate. My hands were shaking. He asked me about being received into the church and then I told him (with my rather wobbly voice) that I had written down all of my sins, as I thought I might forget some. I did, I momentarily forgot them all, my mind went completely blank. And then I heard his gentle voice saying what are the big sins you have done. So I told him. Silent painful tears stinging my eyes and shame written all over my face. And I didn’t only tell him the ones I had done, but the ones that had been done to me.
The priest was so lovely, he gave me God’s forgiveness and said that he will pray for me and asked if I would pray too, for him. Of course I will. All prayers inside the little wooden Tardis were said and I stepped beyond, into what I was expecting to be a clean, bright new, pure, cleansed ethereal world. I thought I would float like a spirit to the Mary chapel 1000 times lighter, where I would say the “Our Father” Lectio Divina style 3 times like an angel, and pray too with gratitude for the priest.
But I didn’t feel those feelings of having been emptied of all guilt, or the feeling of ethereal lightness, or the feeling of freedom and release from all sorrow, for my life lived. I didn’t feel those things so massively because I felt them all so Gigantically and Massively after my spiritual Confession before Christ on Maundy Thursday, 5 weeks earlier. Where I sat for three tearful exhausting hours before the tabernacle. Where any sin that I had ever committed came in to my conscience, and in my soul I relayed it to Christ, where He took it away from me and gave me His unconditional Love and forgiveness in return. And having felt like death, grief-stricken for those three long hours, when I awoke the following morning I felt as bright as a button. As light as a feather. Restored and completely at Peace. Him and me closer than ever.
I did however feel released from the painful shame of having to share, for the last time, those deepest sins with another person. After my prayers as I sat in Westminster’s Lady Chapel, I reflected upon the warmth and humility of the priest, and the blessing of this beautiful Sacrament being taken for the first time by me and all others. Others who wouldn’t have experienced the same Confession that I had experienced on Maundy Thursday with Christ. And I thought about all those people feeling the embrace of God’s Mercy and Love as I had felt it leading up to midnight on Maundy Thursday, and most especially when I awoke on Good Friday.
Sitting in prayer in the Lady Chapel of Westminster, I realised that most of my list wasnt even covered, but that didn’t matter as all the big things were, and Christ had already taken them all and replaced them with His Love and forgiveness. Just as I was about to stand and leave my seat, and leave my first Confession behind me, I was blessed with the most amazing blessing. A procession. I was forced to remain seated at what appeared to be God’s personal fly-past. The Arch Bishop Vincent Nichols and all the clergy in their beautiful red and gold robes two by two filed right past me in absolute surreal sacred perfection.
God blesses me with such Graces again and again and again. And His magic little touches blow me away. I feel so very humbled and special that He should make any such effort to make me so smile, over and over and over again, in such a playful, kind, magical, heavenly and forgiving way xxx
I am almost sure that many others do not experience, what it is that I experience, in the blessed way that I do. But then again maybe they do . . . maybe that is why Westminster Cathedral was so packed full of Love.
Thank you God
I Love You †