Confession: And What Joy Feels My Soul, Just To Know, Just To Know

I have some advice, in Christian love, before you read this: GET YOURSELF OUT OF THE WAY. There is always another side to what one believes. I've been on the Protestant side of Christianity ( until age 50ish ) and the Catholic side ( entering the Catholic Church at age 51 ). If you are not willing to get "SELF" out of YOUR way, bookmark this article, pray sincerely about it and come back to it later.

As I continue to prepare to become Catholic ( Easter Vigil 2018 ) in less than 2 weeks and reflect on my first confession that was just over 48 hours ago,  I had an old hymn come to mind from the 1970's which is where the words in the title come from.

The hymn is "His Grace Is Sufficient." The chorus goes like this "O, His grace is sufficient for me. And His love is abundant and free. And what joy fills my soul, Just to know, just to know, That His grace is sufficient for me."

I come from a Protestant tradition. I grew up Pentecostal and became Baptist as a married adult. Although confession of sins was always taught as being direct to God, it was not uncommon to seek the council of the pastor or pastoral staff when going through struggles ( sin included ) in life.

I'm not going to get into all the history and theology of confession in this article. However, I have provided references ( Catholic.com ) at the end of this article for deeper insight for those who don't understand why Catholicism and Protestantism are different when it comes to confession ( repentance ).

As a Baptized Protestant Christian entering the Catholic Church, the sacrament of reconciliation ( confession ) is part of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. I was never really adamantly opposed to confession to a priest from the start which I think came partly from multiple meetings with Protestant pastors over the years because I felt there were some similarities. I was also open to understanding confession from a Catholic perspective. Why did Catholics approach repentance different than Protestants?

As I mentioned earlier, it's not uncommon to meet with a Protestant pastor or a member of the pastoral staff, share some struggles ( sin, etc. ), the pastor offer advice, the pastor might ask have you asked God's forgiveness, the pastor pray with you to close out the meeting and say as you leave "I'll be praying for you." It's NOT the same as a Catholic Confession, but it's a key reason that my initial acceptance of confession was fairly easy.

Before I dive in, I know the classic Protestant objections to Catholic Confession: 1) I don't need to confess my sins to a priest. 2) I can go straight to God with my sins. 3) Only God can forgive sins. I'm not getting into all that in this article.

I initially had one key hang up about 14 months ago: As a Protestant, I prayed direct to God and asked His forgiveness for a sin ( or sins ) that I had committed. So I got stuck on the confession to a priest thing and what about praying to God? But, once a faithful Catholic man, who has become a great friend, told me about "An Act of Contrition" which is a prayer to God ( included further down in this article ) that is said in the confessional, I overcame the only known barrier ( at the time ) for me concerning confession. However, another objection raised it's ugly head as I began to learn more about Catholicism. But it came from me letting "SELF" get in the way.

The Catholic Church says that I have to confess "ALL" my sins ( mortal ) since my Baptism before entering the Church at the Easter Vigil. "What? You mean that I have to think back "ALL" those years and confess all my sins ( mortal ) to a priest that have occurred since my Baptism. You got to me kidding me. That's crazy." That was something along the lines of my thinking.

I was letting "ME" get in the way. I was letting "SELF" run the show. FYI, until "YOU" get "YOU" out of the way, I guarantee "YOU" that "YOU" will NEVER, EVER, NEVER truly give it "ALL" to God. Remember, it's easier to sing the song "I SURRENDER ALL," than to actually live it out: "I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all."

I have fought my "self-righteous, protestant believing self" many times in this Catholic Transformation: I this, I that, I don't, I do, I, I, I. Guess what? I am actually more open minded to accepting things that are contrary to what "I" have believed much of my life than many others are.

You see, as a Protestant, I knew God had forgiven me of the sins because I had already prayed asking for His forgiveness. Mentally, I knew it because I was faithful to God's word as I knew it from a Protestant perspective. However, Spiritually, I didn't feel God's mercy ( grace ) in my life over many of the sins since my Baptism. Trust me, I understand it's not all about feelings because there has been more than one time that I have felt like just giving up on becoming Catholic.

As I continued my Catholic journey, I accepted what the Catholic Church taught about confession and decided to get "ME" out of the way. I knew that I had to go to Confession before entering the Church at the Easter Vigil. What I didn't know is how much joy, peace, forgiveness, healing, grace and God's mercy I would feel after confession. I went to confession out of obedience not because I "felt" like I really needed to go to confession ( Protestant mentality from childhood to 50+ ). I'm glad that "I DIED TO SELF" and accepted going confession out of obedience.

If I'm going to be a cherry picking, cafeteria Catholic, I might as well remain Protestant. It's all in for me. It's truly let go and let God. I do "SURRENDER ALL."

Now I'll transition into my preparation for and my experience of my first confession.

To prepare for confession, one is to do an examination of conscience which is truly a blessing. This is a reflection of sin in ones life and for me, it was since my Baptism. That's a lot of years and a lot of sin. But I was up for it. I have accepted what the Catholic Church teaches and I'm doing it out of obedience. I didn't want "SELF" getting in my way. For me, I didn't want to miss anything, so I did make a list ( not required ) of the BIG things that I didn't want to forget: "There was NO HOLDING BACK. If I'm going to do this, it's all or nothing." FYI, you are not supposed to intentionally skip confessing a sin that you are aware of. In other words, I know that "I'm a habitual liar ( not really )," but I decide that I'm not confessing this one sin.

I also decided to do a HOLY HOUR. For those who don't know what that is, the simplified version is an hour of prayer and meditation in an adoration Chapel. I did this on the morning of my confession and started the Holy Hour about 3 hours before confession. FYI, this was not my first Holy Hour.

As I entered the confessional, I sat and talked with Father Edward. Again, it kind of reminds me of talking with a pastor in my Protestant days, but this became FAR MORE POWERFUL by the time the confession ended.

We began with doing the sign of the cross together. Although it's not necessary to have a list, I literally began to read off my sins. Father Edward added advice throughout. We had a conversation.

OK, I read my SIN list. Nothing powerful had happened. Nothing life changing had hit me. I was wrapping up my first ever confession with no emotion: YET!

As I began to close, I like the recommendation of saying something like this "forgive me of these sins and any that I may not be aware of or may have forgotten." I wasn't holding ANY known sin back. I wanted a clear conscience and a clean slate.

Father Edward asked me "Is there anyone that you are NOT willing to forgive?" I said NO.

From this point on, it went something like this.

Father Edward has a beautiful crucifix that I've seen him hold in his Homilies. It was likely the one that he was holding around 14 months before when I heard his first homily on January 2017. He handed me his crucifix and said "make and act of contrition."

I held the crucifix in my left hand and the act of contrition words in my right hand. This is the act of contrition that I read.

"My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy."

As I began to read the words in bold above and looking at MY SAVIOR ON THE CROSS, the one who died for my sins, the one who shed His blood on calvary that I might call upon His name for eternal life tears began to come into my eyes ( and they are in my eyes as I type this now ), I felt the presence of God as much as I ever have in my life. Remember, I come from a speaking in tongues Pentecostal background ( later Baptist ). However, that was ONLY THE BEGINNING.

Father Edward prayed the prayer of absolution and I'm guessing it's the one that I found online because there was such a moving of God in my life while all this was happening that I don't remember all the words.

"God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

As Father Edward was saying the words above, the presence of God hit me even stronger and the tears came down my cheeks. Father Edward had told me 3 things earlier that happen in confession: Forgiveness, Healing, Grace ( or God's Mercy ). I felt forgiveness. I felt healing. I felt God's Mercy. I felt God's Amazing Grace. I felt God's Sweet Presence.

"O, His grace is sufficient for me. And His love is abundant and free. And what joy fills my soul, Just to know, just to know, That His grace is sufficient for me."

Father Edward gave me some final words of comfort and a simple penance to help me get my eyes back on the Cross at Calvary. For me, the closing words of comfort and penance can be similar to a closing meeting in a Protestant pastors office when the pastor offers some closing words of comfort and maybe recommend that one go home, read the 23rd Psalms ( hypothetical example ) and continue to pray for God's mercy. The difference in my experience of confession is FAR GREATER than a meeting in a pastors office. I met JESUS AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS IN CONFESSION. He filled me with His love, His forgiveness, His healing, His grace, His mercy.

I DO NOT RECALL another time in my life of God's presence being so strong when I confessed my sins as in His presence in the confessional. I now better understand "In Persona Christi" which is a Latin phrase meaning “In The Person Of Christ”,

This Bible Camp song from the 1970's comes to mind as I close this out. I'm willing to get "SELF" out of the way.

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

If you are a Catholic, GO TO CONFESSION. If you are a fallen away Catholic, come home and GO TO CONFESSION. If confession is a barrier for you ( Catholic or not ), please pray, get "SELF" out of the way and be obedient. If you are a Protestant reading this who has an issue with confessing to a priest, you are getting "YOU" in the way: Sorry, but I've now experienced both sides. If you are not a Christian, contact your local Catholic Parish to begin your journey. Also, don't hesitate to contact us here at Catholic Transformation.

Resources to look up on Catholic Answers ( Catholic.com )

Confession

Is Confession in Scripture?

How to Defend the Sacrament of Confession

Note: I didn't get into mortal and venial sin in this article. I recommend the articles above to learn more about confession.