Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Recognizing the Value of Confession

I have never valued the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a regular part of my life until about a year ago. Before then, I went sporadically as a youth and in college and rarely remember going as an adult. In the last three years, two of my girls received their Sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Communion. As part of the parent-child meetings, parents were encouraged to also go to Reconciliation. With my second daughter this year the DRE mentioned that our priest recommended monthly Confession. 

This in combination with Matthew Kelly's Confession chapter in Rediscover Catholicism encouraged me to reconsider the role of Reconciliation in my life. The chapter is one from the book that I have read multiple times and will continue to revisit. The words spoke to me, such as, "In my own personal journey, Confession has played a very powerful role, helping me to strive to become the best-version-of-myself. I find Confession to be a humbling experience, but not a humiliating one. Above all, I find that it is an experience of liberation that enables me to reassess where I am in the journey, helps me to identify what is holding me back, and encourages me to continue along the way" (p. 150). He then went on to discuss how "this sacrament has been abandoned in our own time" (p. 151), which I could relate to since my own experiences in different phases in my life had never pointed toward a strong appreciation for the Sacrament evidenced by regular Confession. The rest of the chapter was compelling for me because of his personal testimony of the power of the Sacrament and why he recommends that people seriously consider it, making me rethink what I knew of the Sacrament. 

With his words and the recommendation of our priest in mind, I decided to try to integrate the Sacrament more regularly into my life. Initially, what I found along the way was the first experience that I remember feeling the sense of a priest acting in persona Christi at Confession. I had the same priest on different occasions and as I would reflect back on what he told me, it always seemed to be perfect - exactly what I needed to hear at the moment even though I didn't realize in advance it was what I needed. Yet, there was not always a clear link between the most compelling aspects of his words and what I had confessed. Instead, I would receive targeted feedback based on what I said, and then there were more global, big picture what I really needed right then mixed in. The priest also had a calming presence in general, so he was very comforting. As a result, the Sacrament I typically connected with being nervous or discomfort turned into peace and a recognition of the power of the Sacrament. 

Since then that priest transferred to another parish, but I will remember his smile and his role in connecting me to the Sacrament. In the months since his departure, I continued to go to Reconciliation - often every two months or a month and  a half, rather than monthly. Right now in my Reconciliation journey, I am trying to learn to have good Confessions while going more regularly, including not wanting to sound like a broken record with some of the areas where I struggle in my day to day life as a wife, mom, and educator, as well as trying to be more cognizant of areas I should confess. Maybe it's time to re-read the Confession chapter to see how Kelly's words will speak to me where I am at right now as opposed to the me in early months needing the encouragement to take that first step and go to Confession regularly.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Catholic Resources: Matthew Kelly's Rediscover Catholicism

I probably had Matthew Kelly's Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion & Purpose on my Amazon wish list for over a year (maybe even multiple years). The book topic was calling out to me. I knew as an adult Catholic swept up in the go-go-go of my career as an educator desperately trying to juggle family and my professional life that I had not been able to invest as much in my faith as I would have liked to. I knew that the book would help me to grow in my faith and to learn more about what it means to be Catholic. Yet, it sat on my wish list without being purchased.

Then, one Sunday I saw a well-used copy of the book in the pew. I was so excited I could hardly wait to ask if people knew whose book it was when Mass was over in order to see if I could borrow it. The response was even better than I could have expected. The person I asked didn't know whose book it was but said it had been a book handed out previously for a holiday (part of the Dynamic Catholic book program) and that the office probably still had extra copies.

That's how the book finally, finally moved off my wishlist and into my hands. I read it slowly and jumped around to the topics I wanted to know most before eventually reading the whole book through beginning to end at a more rapid pace. There are certain chapters that I have read again and again.

This book was an introduction to Matthew Kelly's work for me. I appreciated his voice and his dedication to his faith. The book is organized into four parts: We Become What We Celebrate, The Authentic Life, The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality, and Now Is Our Time. The book opens with a powerful prologue that drew me right in, making me realize that I never really got how great the sacrifice of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus was. The initial pages sparked a deeper appreciation that continued to grow as I nurtured my faith formation. Furthermore, the prologue deepened my sense of gratitude for the Church, a greater sense of pride for being a Catholic.

My favorite part of the book was the third one that walked through seven aspects of Catholic spirituality. Through this section, I was able to self-reflect on which aspects were a part of my life already and areas in which I could grow as a Catholic. There were aspects where I wanted to re-engage, some that felt new, and others where I was just oblivious to the richness. For example, the chapter on Confession gave me the courage to view the Sacrament as something other than an anxiety producing experience and to consider for the first time in my life to start a routine of regularly going to Confession. Though I had prayed decades of the rosary in youth activities growing up, I never learned how to fully pray the rosary - an understanding of the initial prayers and the mysteries. When I think about the shifts in my faith life, especially over the last year, much of the changes connect back in one way or another to this section of the book.

Another powerful aspect of the book is Matthew's call to action tone, inspiring us to continually reflect on how we can be holier in our day to day lives, or as he often refers to it - the best version of ourselves. This resource and the action tone helped to shift my perspective toward the realization of evangelization as part of my role in life, manageable ideas on how to begin the process, and the courage to take steps toward action.

My experience with this book made me realize, sometimes we are just not ready yet. We might recognize a gap in our lives but not yet know how to set healthy limits on aspects such as careers, feeling like there just is not possibly time to focus on our faith development. Nonetheless, the resources are there and available, waiting for us to be ready to nurture our souls. Now on our shelves, there is also a Spanish edition copy for my husband.

I have much more that I could say about this book and the impact it has had on my life. It will be sprinkled throughout blog posts here and there.

If you are interested in nurturing your faith and are not familiar with Rediscover Catholicism, I recommend that you visit Dynamic Catholic for your free copy (5.95 shipping) or better yet 6 copies for $18 (free shipping) in order to read and discuss alongside family or friends. Other Matthew Kelly books available on the site pair well with the book.

*Disclaimer: I am part of the Dynamic Catholic Ambassador's Club, which has helped me to be more familiar with the work and resources available through Dynamic Catholic. However, all thoughts contained in this post are my authentic thoughts and I am posting of my own volition. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

In the Mix

I'm right in the mix of the start of another academic year. A couple of weeks after my girls started school, it was time for the welcome back meetings at my university. In the mix of meetings and getting started with the term, as is typical, I was not able to juggle everything I would like to. Posting on this new blog was something that I often thought of but then did not actually get to composing posts.

Now that I have settled into the term, I am ready to refocus and layer this back in. During the last year I have been reading and viewing a range of Catholic resources. I thirsted for faith formation in my adult life - something I had missed since the community of middle school/high school youth group, camps, and retreats. This year I finally felt some of the void being filled from the gap in my life once I no longer had an active involvement with a religious group to strengthen my Catholic faith upon graduation from high school.

In the coming weeks, I will be doing a series of posts to highlight some of the different resources that have nurtured my faith development this year.