It can create heated discussions. There are as many fervently opposed to it as those who are grateful for it. Right or wrong, needed or not, I have done this. I am also willing to share with anyone who reads this my fledgling experience with it. I am not an apologist or theologian. I probably won’t ever be one either. However, I do have the capacity to follow my heart, conscience, and the voice that I believe to be the Holy Spirit.
What is penance? By the Catholic Church teaching, penance is what I do to make reparation for my sin. Sin not only damages me. It also damages everyone I come in contact with. After reconciliation, penance helps to repair that damage. ( I can hear the naysayers, already. It is ok. Nay away.)
I attended confession on Sunday. I did not want to hurry the process. I do most things in a hurry and miss half the message, all the time. Just that part of the journey was cleansing. I went and confessed all sins (Yes, all sins. Even the ones you might think I left off. I also confessed sin you don’t know about. It really is a private personal thing.) I expressed contrition, and received absolution. Then, I was given my penance. It was to make two prayers, regarding two kinds of people. I knew I wasn’t going to rush and do it right away. I wanted to sit with the experience of having thoroughly confessed and received absolution from Christ.
I had decided to do penance on Thursday. Classic Roy style, I had a plan and had it all figured out. I arrived at SMG on Thursday to do penance. My intention was to do penance in the presence of Christ in the Sacred Adoration room. ( I will blog more about this wonderful opportunity another time.) The Adoration Chapel was closed for the week due to work/construction related issues. Darn! I opted to do it instead, in an area outside I can only call The Mary Garden. It is beautiful and quiet. Someday, I will post some pictures of it. I am not really the most spiritual minded person after driving in rush hour traffic. I spent some time quieting my thoughts and reading a little. I really need to do a post about the Magnificat. It really is a wonderful resource. After a time I set about sincerely doing my penance. It is not difficult to recite a couple of prayers. It does take effort though to prayerfully consider each line of prayer while firmly holding someone in your thoughts. Without realizing it, it consumed the better part of an hour to do. As I immersed myself in pray and penance something happened. Something wonderful.
Peace. A sense of serenity. A void where doubt, fear, and worry usually reside, was filled with love. I could almost call it a transcendent state. Don’t worry. I don’t think I’m quite ready to ascend to the right hand of the Father. It was a remarkable and beautiful gift of grace. All of you who know me, know….I could use a little more grace.
Afterwards, it was time for my regularly scheduled RCIA class. Since it is Lent, our parish has Stations of the Cross. The Stations are artistic representations of 14 scenes from Christ’s passion. At church it is a devotion to prayer and meditation upon each station. Each Thursday night a different group from within the church leads Stations of the Cross. This particular Thursday was the RCIA groups turn to lead. John, our formation director asked me to be one of the candle bearers. I found out soon enough I was going to get to wear an alb. Note to the side: Now I know why the church is so cold. Vestments are monstrously HOT! As you can see by the photos, I have my ways of dealing with nervousness. Being silly. Not too much, though. Just enough to get the pictures taken. Helping with Stations was a beautiful way to add a prayer to my penance.
The devotion ends standing in front of the crucifix. Christ’s Passion His death and resurrection, could not have become more real to me in any way. Some would ask why penance with a smile? It is because I can faintly begin to understand and receive grace.