Sunday, May 28

Being Catholic - Week 6

So I started the weekend with the big plan of confessing. That was the one thing that I wanted to do this weekend. I took a nap on Saturday afternoon, and by the time I got up, showered and to St. Thomas Aquinas, it was about 3:35 or so. STA has confession from 2:45p-3:45p with Mass starting at 4:00. When I got in line, there were about a dozen people ahead of me. I waited in line until finally the priest had to leave so he could do the Mass, about 3:55p. There were about 5 people ahead of me and 2 people behind me when the confessions ended. I was quite disappointed.

But I had a Plan B. I checked, and made sure that there was confession at the Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, and there was - from 4:45p-5:15p with Vigil Mass at 5:30. I drove over there and got there about 4:10p. There was a Spanish-speaking wedding going on, so I knelt in front of the Tabernacle and prayed and got ready for my confession. At 4:30p, I went and sat near the door where people wait for confession. This is the first time I've been to confession there. I waited and waited and waited, and finally about 4:45p the priest that was officiating the wedding came out. Now, there's one small problem with this priest. He's Columbian and knows pretty much two sentences of English - "Do you know Spanish?" and "I don't speak much English." There were quite a few of us waiting in line to confess and I was #4.

We all stood up and got in line, and then Guy #6 decides this is a good time to make some buddies. Here, in line for Confession. That's not a *normal* thing I hope, is it? He kept chatting up the guy right behind me, who was obviously in a contemplative mood as I was. It was just ookey hearing this guy say, "So, do you go to church here often? I've been going here a few months now ..."

I go into confession and hear "Do you speak Spanish? I only speak a little English" from the priest. I said, No, I don't speak any Spanish, sorry. So he pulls out these English "cheat sheets" and starts reading from them the basics about confession. I said the Bless me Father thing, and then confessed my sins, but I'm really not sure if he understood what I was saying. Then he read the Absolve you part of confession off of our little English "cheat sheets" and I read my "I confess" prayer and I was done. I was given Five Our Fathers for penance.

It was quite awkward. Didn't I need to do more than just five Our Fathers for a month's worth of sin, one of which was a Mortal sin? I wanted to ask the priest about my situation with my friend, and receive good solid Catholic guidance on how to support my gay friend without being in a state of sin, but this priest didn't know any English and barely got through the absolute basics of sin. It was really awkward. Should I find an English confessor and confess again?

Vigil Mass was good. Deacon Charlie gave the homily, and it was a good one, about the Ascension and faith. After Mass, he blessed my St. Benedict rosary with the St. Benedict blessing, so now I feel like I can use it.

Ok, I forgot to tell you about last Saturday's mass. We had a substitute priest at St. Jude. I tried to get him to bless my new St. Benedict rosary, but when I went to go talk to him, he was really busy and didn't notice that it was a St. Benedict rosary and fired off a very basic "May the user of this rosary be blessed" 10-second blessing before running off to defrock. Yeah, it was annoying. But I finally got it blessed.

This morning, in honor of Pope Benedict's tour of Poland this week, I decided to continue my Tour of Churches with a visit to St. Peter's parish in Uptown. It's right off of Woodall Rogers just outside of Downtown, and is actually a Polish-ethnic parish. But they do have an English Mass at 9a. So I went to it. The church is simple, but also has some really great elements of beauty. Above the altar is a gorgeous replica of the Our Lady of Czestochowa portrait from Poland. I was actually given a holy card with this portrait from my friend Nancy, one of the sponsors in my RCIA class.

It was interesting to me that the congregation seemed predominantly African-American. The next thing that I found was very cool was that the person sitting in front of me turned around, extended a hand, and said Hello! In all of the parishes I've been to, this is the first time I was greeted by a parishioner as I sat in the pews. There were maybe 50 or so people at the church. I have a feeling most of the parishioners of that parish come to the 11a service.

They have a very small choir - 4 or 5 women, 1 man, all African-American. And the music was BEAUTIFUL! I knew many of the songs that they sang (the Gloria, the Holy Holy Holy, etc.). But this small choir sang them so beautifully. They also had this Kyrie that started in English, then the next verse was in Greek, then they sang on top of each other, kind of like In The Round. It's hard to describe.

The service was also very solemn. The bells were rang during the Eucharistic Prayer, and the altar children were very reverent and solemn.

They did a Rite of Welcoming into the Community for a small baby. It had been in dire health when born, so the mother did an emergency baptism for the baby at its birth. The rite was very similar to a baby baptism, and they did the candle and the bib and the chrism oil.

The priest is a good priest, very reverent and obviously spiritual. I enjoyed the homily quite a bit. The only problem I had during the entire service is that I was sitting directly in front of a large family whose son kept touching me, which I found to be very distracting. But they were quiet for the most part. It was good to see so many people who obviously cared for the well-being of each other. The parish is so small that people seemed to know everyone that was there. Even the priest shook my hand and welcomed me in a tone that seemed like he knew I was new, but was happy to see me.

I might just have to return to St. Peter's. I really liked it. I liked that people know each other, and that there is a small community where the priest knows the parishioners, and I *LOVED* the music! The people that were there seemed like they were really there for the right reasons.


At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Victor said...

Dear Cynthia,
your sins are forgiven even if the priest did not understand you - for it is Christ that forgives, and he understood quite well what you have done and that you feel sorry for it. So don't worry about this! If, on the other hand, you still feel the need to talk about it you should ask a priest you already know and trust. You are not bound to the "opening hours" of the confessional. I made my best confessions when I was with a priest in a private environment (his living room).
BTW, I totally know this frustration when you want to go confess on Monday and the official hours are Saturday from 3 to 5. It seems to be a Catholic thing (at least it is the same here in Germany)...

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Gunner said...

It was really awkward. Should I find an English confessor and confess again?
Maybe I'm wrong, but in a situation like that is the father supposed to be a conduit to your Heavenly Father? If so I would say he heard your sincere confession and you are absolved of sin. Maybe the Lord thought you needed a Monty Python humorous situation for this confession.

He heard you.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Brad Haas said...


I don't suppose you have a spiritual director, do you? Maybe you could find one. I've looked for one on and off, and never had one, but ideally a spiritual director could give you guidance and such, and hear your confession whenever you meet.

As for penance, no, they're not as harsh as they used to be - I'm sure you've heard of penitents in the ancient Church being made to leave the church before the Liturgy of the Eucharist for a year or things like that. But in truth, if you didn't do the assigned penance, your absolution would still be valid, though the omission may be a venial sin (so says Scott Hahn in his book Lord, Have Mercy which I highly recommend). We're all called to a penitential lifestyle, so you should add your own penance, whatever unites you to the Cross. The point of penance isn't to make up for your sins, which is impossible. The point is to be united with Christ's sacrifice which does make up for your sins, and if it's still necessary, become free of attachment to the sins ("amend my life").

Another interesting thing from Lord, Have Mercy: it's a good thing to confess venial sins, but there are a few ways venial sins can be forgiven on the spot: receiving Communion, making a sincere act of contrition, or even the intercession of another person (see 1 John 5:16). I knew the first one since my Catholic elementary education, but I'd never been aware of the other two.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Web said...

Two comments: 1) It sounds like you went to the right side at STA for confession if Fr. Libone had to leave to do the mass. Usually there are a couple of priests over on the left side and at least some of the time they'll stay and keep hearing confession even after mass starts until everybody is taken care of. Fr. Orosco is in the confessional closer to the front and he's who I go to if he's there. 2) St. Peter's is right in the heart of what was the African-American part of Dallas up until at least the 1940s. It was the designated black Catholic church -- ditto St. Paul's Methodist on the other side of Woodall Rogers. Booker T. Washington (next to St. Paul's), now the HS for the performing arts, was the black high school for many years.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Angela C. said...

I know what you mean about your penance not being severe "enough" for your sins. However, that might lead into scrupulous thinking which is something you definitely want to avoid. (Ask me how I know this.) You just have to trust that God accepts the penance you performed as sufficient. And be kinder to yourself, because if God can forgive you, you can certainly forgive yourself.

Welcome home, btw. :D


At 10:46 PM, Blogger Moneybags said...

I know what you went through with the Confessions. A member of my family waited in line for over 30 minutes to confess and when she was getting ready to go in, he came out. He had to start Mass.

While you don't have to go to Confession again, I would recommend going sometime soon and asking that question you had to an English confessor.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Julie D. said...

As for the five Our Fathers not being enough, Angela is right. I usually go to confession about once every three months or so. My usual penance is an Our Father and three Hail Marys. So I wouldn't worry. The point is not for it to be harsh.

On the English speaking priest part, listen to those other commenters ... Jesus got it. If the priest felt he didn't understand well enough he would have sent you to someone else.

At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Victor said...

I already made a confession in French (and God knows how horrible my French is!). But what could I do? I was in need of forgiveness AND in Paris. I have the sincere hope God understood even my poor French, and you should hope the same for your, I am sure, quite recognisable English!

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Laura H. said...

Ditto to most everything said here, 'specially Web and Julie D. Remember the left side is good at STA on Saturdays... Oh and I can totally relate with the annoyance of a priest who says a 5 second blessing when there are blessings set up for certain objects. I had the same problem with my scapular.


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