Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holy Night

It's two days before Christmas. God bless all the little children in the world...

A child asleep
a dark wintry night
stars in the sky
dazzling and bright...
Soft sighs and sweet dreams
from under the covers
and next to the child
a young mother hovers
watching her child's
innocent face
and thanking God
for this moment's grace...
A profile in moonlight
a small dimpled chin
a face of wonder and purity
and free of all sin...
The mother stands watching
protecting her child
from all that is dark
and cruel and wild
The rise and fall
of the child's chest
means slumber is deep
and now mother can rest
A kiss on the cheek
she pauses at the door
to gaze at her child
for a moment more
She stands and she wonders
Did Mary feel this way
when she gave birth long ago
on the first Christmas Day?
Did she feel in her heart
and could she already see
that her Son would be the Savior
of this child before me?
Peace settles over me
I blow a kiss to my girl
and silently thank God
for His gift to this world...
A Son who would be born
grow up and die
to save all on earth
therefore ensuring that I
would have a child of my own
to care for and love
and remind her always
that she's a gift from Above...
A quiet evening
before the most Holy Night
for this moment in time
all in my world is right.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the many blessings in my life. Help me always to love my child unconditionally and to raise her to believe and trust in You. Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Healing Hands

Growing up Catholic, I was always taught the importance of going to Confession. In second grade, Reconciliation was a really big deal. I remember all the preparation and anticipation as my classmates and I got ready for this sacrament. I remember having butterflies in my stomach and feeling dizzy before my first Confession. Why? Well, I’d never done it before (obviously) and it was kind of scary to have to admit out loud all the things I’d done wrong.

When it was finally my turn, I choked. I remember thinking, Shoot. What have I done wrong lately? Yelled at someone? Didn’t make my bed? I came up with a few things for the priest—Father Herdigan heard my first Confession because the line for Father Len was too long and mom didn’t want to be waiting around forever—but I felt like it was kind of a letdown. First, I had thought I was going to be in a dark confessional and could hide, but it ended up being face-to-face. Secondly, I didn’t feel any kind of big healing power when I was done. It was more like, Okay, I just tattled on myself, I’m going to say a few prayers, and then what?

Unfortunately, it set the stage for what would become a strong aversion to going to Confession. Now, don’t get me wrong…I liked going to Catholic grade school, but I was annoyed that I didn’t have much choice when it came to going to Confession. We had to go on a regular basis because it was a requirement. (I just remembered a funny time when I was waiting in line to go to Confession and when it was my turn to go into the confessional, I opened up the wrong door and walked in on the priest. It was Father Maher. Oooops.)

As I got older, I became more and more disenchanted with the whole process. Heck, until last night, I hadn’t been to Confession in probably fifteen years. As I got older, I never saw the point and even began to resent the idea. I always thought that if I was truly sorry for something, God would know that, and if I asked Him for forgiveness, it would be granted. To a degree, I still believe that. And yet, I had reached a point in my life where my soul was feeling a little dirty. A few too many dark spots. And just asking for forgiveness didn’t seem to be enough. So, after much thought and careful consideration, I decided to attend the Advent Reconciliation Service at my current parish, Holy Family.

The service last night helped me learn what Confession is really all about. I learned that it’s not necessary to go through the whole laundry list of wrongs that I’ve committed—like muttering mean things under my breath when I get cut off in traffic or silently cursing the dentist when he’s drilling into an already tender tooth or getting impatient in long lines. Those “sins” happen because we’re human. It’s the bigger sins that pose a problem. Like being intentionally mean in thoughts, words and actions because anger and bitterness have taken a foothold or holding a grudge against someone for a long-past wrongdoing.

Face-to-face confession is a little intimidating, but I decided to bite the bullet and do it. The priest who heard my confession last night exuded warmth and kindness and as I really opened myself up and spilled out the darkness that had been tainting my soul, I swear I felt a burden being lifted from me. In a way, his hands on my shoulders were almost sucking that darkness right out of me. I found myself getting a little emotional and as my voice quivered, he quietly reminded me that it’s time to let go because the only person I’m hurting right now is myself. In my heart, I already knew that was true, but hearing it from him caused all my defenses to crumble. As he gave me my penance, a few tears slipped out of my left eye and he used the thumb of his right hand to wipe them away. He cupped my face and reminded me that everything was going to be okay, gave me a blessing and a gentle smile and sent me on my way.

The power of Confession had always been lost on me before. I never really understood it. I understand it now. It goes beyond just confessing things out loud. It goes to that deeper healing and understanding and really feeling the power of God’s love and forgiveness. And I’m feeling it.