Part of many religions is the idea that we ask forgiveness for sins and this was a prominant ritual in my Catholic Faith. We set out for church for Mass and Confessions and especially at Easter time. While this was largly an unconscious act for me, I am more aware of it now as I tack in the injunction “Go Sin no More.”
Mrs. Murray, my national School Teacher, prepared me for my first confession. The school was under direction of the church and was up the road just a little bit on the other side from the school. It was flanked by graveyards on either side, a place that contained most of my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family.
Mrs. Murray brought us into the church and we stepped up into the Confessional and had to stand, as we were too small to kneel. I have no memory of my sins but we were prompted by our teacher to find some sin for the priest. In those days, not obeying parents and forgetting prayers was part of the list. We were taught the “I confess to almighty God” and “Oh MY God I am heartily sorry”, a prayer known as the “Act of Contrition.” We then were given “Penance” which could be “Three Hail Maries.” We were all of seven when we were doing this.
We could “Make our First Communion” after the “First Confessions.” We dressed up in white dresses and veils and wore new black leather patent shoes and white ankle socks. This second sacrament after Baptism, happened in the springtime, maybe May.
We did a trial run at the church with the “Holy Communion” opening our mouths so the “Host” could be placed on the outstretched tongue and taken into the mouth. Mrs Murray was our stand-in for the priest, for the practice run. We had to be fasting that morning of the real communion.
Sometimes we were given small amounts of change, sixpence or a shilling, from relatives or friends of the family. It was a special time and a celebration into the awareness of what is sin, and then made clean so we could receive God into our inner selves.
What brings me to the story above is that I have not been a practicing Catholic for many years but always felt free to go to confessions and Communion, as I felt inclined.
When I was upset recently, I though I could go to Confessions. It was an impulsive move, as I rode past the church on my bike. I parked my bike between a shrub and the wall and went inside. There was a young man, who looked like a priest, had a collar on him, and said that if I wanted confessions, he would hear them.
He took out two folding tinny chairs, and we sat opposite each other and he decided to put on the “Stole”, a purple scarflike vestment for around the neck. He said he would make it official. I said the invocation prayer “Bless me father for I have sinned” and told him what I considered my current sins, including annoying the life out of a relative of mine. She said I was “oblivious” and other such things.
After getting all my sins out, he asked me “Are you a practicing Catholic?” I said no I have not been for some time. He stood up, took off his stole and said he could not hear my confessions unless I intended to be a practicing Catholic. He opened the door and put away our chairs and his vestment for confessions.
The act of confessing itself was a ritual that freed me in some way. The ritual of feeling the need to say, I was wrong and I would like to fix that in myself, is what I needed.
I told my sister in England what had happened. She is married to a Deacon of the Catholic Church and she “went off” on this priest who “retained my sins.” I do not think I will return to the fold of the Catholic Church, for a number of reasons, not necessarily connected to the above event. I will always be a follower of the man Jesus who became the Christ, “Me and the Father are One,” he said.
The important thing is that I am able to forgive myself for anything awkard, shamefull, and even for being oblivious. I then become more conscious as I move forward trying to “sin no more.”
I imagine that Jesus, Buddha and Gurus all fall down laughing, as their followers insist that only they are right. By looking at their different teachings, they each can help us to have a properly human experience, forgiving ourselves and stemming the tide of the permission we give ourselves to give others an improper human experience. “Go sin no More” is implied in the whole act of confessions, and is now taped to my forehead as I go about my day, looking at ice-cream parlors etc.
As I look into the dreams, gifts from the unconscious they help me identify where I need to change. Waking up out of the oblivious is the fruit of confessions.
Wherever you find yourself on your spiritual journey, do not be afraid to confess your sins as you find yourself in the spirit and of course go sin no more. To sin no more includes the idea that something I am doing or thinking is leaving me in a mess either mentally or spiritually. I can intuit what that is, line upon line, here a little and there a little as I move myself away from unhealthy habits of cursing up a storm or eating trash or emotionally blowing lots of wind into half truths about others and myself. This is the truth that will make you free and no one will do it for you. Love from Rose.