Go and Sin No More: Set Free by Penance, the Sacrament of Freedom
true. I also missed the deep worship of my childhood where I experienced, in a profound way, the transcendent majesty of God, at the Altar in every Mass.
Because of my passionate hunger for truth I found myself, though respectful of the instructors, doubting and hungering for more than they were offering in their classes. I simply could not check my brain at the classroom door. I wanted answers and I never felt that my sincere inquiries should be cast aside as some sort of temptation. I began to discern that the road of conversion was a lifelong path.
I had a long way to travel. My pilgrimage was not over, but in fact, had only begun. The hunger for God, rekindled in my soul during that encounter on the beach, was insatiable. I also continued to experience the guilt of my wrong choices, my sins. Oh, I was aware that I had been forgiven. However, I didn't feel forgiven. Something was missing.
I started pouring over the books in that Protestant Bible College library -wanting to know about the history of the Christian Church. I found an inconsistency in the literalist approach I was being taught in the New Testament class. It seemed that Jesus meant everything He said - except His explicit words concerning the Eucharist or the "Lord's supper" as the instructor called it. Though Jesus Himself said it was His Body and Blood, right in the biblical text, the Professor intimated he somehow didn't mean it. I could not accept this meager dismissal of something so profound.
I also began to hear increasing disparagement of the Catholic Church in some classes. It did not comport with my experience as a child, my growing convictions about the Christian life or my fledging study of Christian history. I hungered for the truth and continued, as had been my lifelong habit, to devour books. At that time, the Bible College library was stocked with the writings of the Protestant reformers. However, it was as though the Church stopped with the Apostles, or shortly thereafter, only to be rekindled by Martin Luther. I wanted to know the whole story!
I began to make daily visits to the Lakeland Florida Public library. There I probed early Church writings and began to question my way right back to my Catholic Christian faith. I discovered the early Christian writings, the Fathers and the wonderful truth about the early Christian Church, her early liturgy, her understanding of the "mysteries" (sacraments) and her hierarchical order. I sought out a priest and began my journey home to the Catholic Church.
Little did I realize then that this part of the journey would also lead me to find the freedom I longed for, through experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance). "Confession" was one of the practices of Catholic faith I no longer thought I "needed" and did not understand. However, though I knew the Lord was real and active in my life and I knew that He forgave me for my sins, my wrong choices and rebellion, I still felt somehow bound by them.
I wanted to be free. I also wanted more of God. I prayed - but I knew that I had only scratched the surface of His invitation to a relationship of communion. I knew it was more than the well intended little songs I had learned along the way. It was an invitation into His very life and a call to holiness. I read a flyer in the back of the parish Church I was attending about a retreat that was to occur in Southern Florida. The "Retreat Master" was a Benedictine Monk, (the "Abbot" or "Father" of a monastery). The theme was "intimacy with the Lord".
I registered and went the next weekend. The retreat grounds were beautiful and called to mind my childhood experiences at similar places- "holy places" set aside for encountering God. There I was, soaking in the sun, on these beautiful retreat grounds in sunny Southern Florida. I was eighteen years young. I had been intrigued by a flyer advertising the retreat at the back of the Catholic Church I began attending. The retreat promised to help all who attended experience a deeper intimacy with Jesus through developing an interior life.
By now, I had returned home to the Church of my childhood, the Catholic Church. I was back at Mass, the sacred liturgy, almost every day. I was reading the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) and something from the Fathers of the Church or the lives of the Saints every day. I had fallen in love with the Church. Now I was a Catholic Christian, not only because I was raised that way, but also because I had doubted, questioned and prayed my way back home. Or rather, the Head of that Church had invited me and I had begun to hear His voice.
Oh, how I wanted to hear it even more deeply. I attended the retreat for that reason. That day, during the morning sessions, I was invited to focus on developing an interior life and deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer. Not only were the talks wonderful, but something ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: penance, reconciliation, sacrament, confession, conversion, GK Chesterton, forgiveness, Lent, absolution, pilgrim, Deacon Keith Fournier
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