Posted By Fr. Bill on May 14, 2012
I remember years ago I began following the example of a priest I looked up to, by going to confession often. He told me he went for “absolution” every day, at the risk of pestering and annoying one of his Jesuit friends (he had few) to give him the ‘grace’ of the Sacrament, just so that he had it every day. Knowing him fairly well I suspected he was among that rare breed of person that didn’t really have much to confess, since he was living in a particular state of grace and was regularly attentive to his actions, thoughts, and words (He was a Jesuit also, old school). But he was gravely serious with me about how easy it would be to fall from the curb to the gutter; therefore, he confided to me with a smile, he knew he wanted to go every day for absolution just to be ‘safe’. And there was grace for his future too, he said…something he knew he couldn’t live without. He told me that there were popes who went daily and highly recommended this practice because it was spiritually not only wise for one with many grave responsibilities, but necessary.
Lesson: The closer we get to God, the more we need Him, and the more wary of ourselves we should be. It’s not that the closer we get to God, and the more spiritually advanced we become, the more like God we become and the less we “need” Him. It’s the opposite. To be near God, you will need the protection of God more and more…because you are not God. We are dependent.
I took this to heart and so I went often. I performed this regularly as an experiment to plumb the depths of the Sacrament, and to experience and explore the change in consciousness it afforded.
I found a church in town with a pretty solid and balanced older priest who took his vocation quite seriously, and thus had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every morning before Mass, and offered confession as well before these. So I’d try to make it up there as often as I could.
I did note right away a number of things. I developed a sensitivity to the reality of sin, including the dangers of venial sin. Going to confession frequently with the right intention helps one to appreciate the reality of sin, its true gravity and danger to the spiritual life even when venial; and also, along the way I developed a sensitivity towards the reality of sin in the lives of others: since I am a priest I should care about that.
But over time, it keyed me in to the reality of how varied people’s circumstances are in life, how the reality of sin affects them and how weaknesses and tests from God are as wide and varied as there are personalities. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush.
You need to be focused on the gravity of sin, but at the same time, you need to be able to be detached enough to understand the role of compassion and leaving judgment to God.
In other words, we can’t get soft towards the reality of sin, whether in ourselves or in others; yet being balanced before God leaves you with an awareness that as much as someone else’s sin repulses us, we could easily be right where they are if the circumstances were just right. No one should look down on anyone else…because we are all in the same boat. We need to see someone who is struggling with compassion, and we should pray for them to get stronger for the good in their lives with the help of their Lord.
Visiting the Sacrament frequently, with a good director working with you, will help you see this clearly and put you in a humble place.