Thursday, March 31, 2022

Forgiveness, Being Grateful and Playing in the Line to Confession

      For the first time in over forty five years, I went to confession. It's a long story but in a nutshell; I was raised Catholic, practiced my faith as a Protestant for many years, then returned to the Catholic church a few years ago. Almost every Catholic has a funny story to tell about confession. Despite the anxiety-producing wait in line to have your chance at purging your conscience to the priest, it's really not that bad. As kids, we hated it and tried to avoid it like the plague. We agonized over what to confess. We agonized over rehearsing the prayers taught to us by the nuns so we wouldn't mess them up in the confessional and embarrass ourselves.We shuddered at the thought of Father Reilly's booming voice yelling at us from his hidden presence in the confessional. I recall the time he yelled after my younger cousin, "Come back here, you're not done yet!" We were all waiting our turn in the pews and Rich didn't hear the Father calling to him. We all waved our arms and whisper-yelled to Rich to, "Go back, go back! You're not done!" Oh Lord, good times, good times.

     Nowadays, I openly admit to my priest and fellow Catholics that I struggle with the Biblical case for confessing to a priest. I speak up in Bible study. I share the way I understand things and I seek answers for those things I do not know understand. I think everyone appreciates the lively discussions and we all come out learning so much more when we ask questions. The main thing I have learned about myself in studying the Christian faith is that 99% of the time I overthink things. I am so intent on finding the Truth, with a capital "T" that I do not allow faith and trust to lead me. When I do take a step of faith and fully trust that God has His hand in this, I am almost always blessed. So that is what I did for confession yesterday. Even though I may not agree with or understand the scriptures backing this practice, I figured I have decided to follow this Catholic faith so, I am going to trust.

     Once I made this decision, the rest was a piece of cake. As with all anxiety situations, it is best to run at it head-on and embrace it. So, I imagined myself eagerly rushing to the confessional, smiling with excitement at this opportunity to put my faith into practice. Instead of old Father Reilly sitting in there, I imagined God was waiting for me, smiling down at my child like faith. I spent the morning making a list of my sins for which I wished forgiveness. It was easy. I typed it up in Microsoft Word. This was serious. 

     I have been confessing and repenting of my sins directly to God all these years without ever typing them out. This process really gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I felt about these transgressions and how I would like to change. I would be verbally presenting them to someone else, a representative of Jesus, and allow another person to verbally forgive me. It was humbling. 

     Standing in line at St. Gerard's in Roanoke gave me time to get nervous again. There was choir music playing from a large speaker and the stained glass windows were beautiful to reflect upon. I heard french horns in the music and I imagined the angels blowing their horns because Leonora was going to confession. As each person before me emerged from the confessional room door, I glanced at their faces to see if anyone was crying. No, they all looked fine. I had no idea who Monsignor Golden was but his was the line I was in. Was he a yeller? Did priests even yell anymore? Was there a confessional booth in there or did I have to sit face-to-face with him? Would it be too dark to read my typed notes? Was I allowed to read my typed notes? I thought I best review them and try to memorize my sins while I waited in line. I told my friend who was in line with me to watch for smoke exploding out from the cracks of the door while I was in there. I hummed a death dirge under my breath.

     Finally, it was my turn. I opened the door and walked in with confidence. Monsignor Golden was sitting right there in a bright little room with an empty chair facing him. He was dressed in proper priestly attire with a beautiful purple shroud across his shoulders. He smiled and motioned for me to sit. 

     And I was forgiven! 

     As light as I am making of this matter, my faith is something that I hold dear and take very seriously. The sins upon my soul were a weight that God, my Father, always wants me to unburden to Him. Technically, I knew God had already forgiven me but this was a new step of faith on which I had embarked. 

    I must make note that this is my personal journey into my faith and I hold no one else to this standard nor do I expect anyone to hold me to theirs. We each have our own walk of life to take and this is mine alone and this is how I choose to do life and practice my spiritual faith. 

     The penance I was given by Monsignor Golden was to read the Bible passages about the Passion of Christ. He gave me no "Our Fathers" nor "Hail Mary's". I didn’t feel like reading the passion was penance and I will gladly do it! My only regret is that I wish I had asked Monsignor Golden why this was my penance. I would like to know the significance of how that ties will n to my sins. But there I go again, always needing to know the why's.

PS. I include this experience as ‘play’ because it fits the parameters for play. I felt safe, I had a connection to the others alongside me and I felt a belonging. There was also risk (Hell!). My friend and I quietly laughed to tears while we waited in line and I shared all my thoughts with her. I recall all of this with joy. After all these years, confession still does not disappoint.




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Gratitude, Joy, and Play

A happy spring quilt mat that I am finally getting around to finishing.

     A randomized study in 2003 at UC Davis's academic lab studied gratitude. It found, "Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported less physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week." 

    Gratitude, joy, and play have an important affect on our brains. Of those three, play can become lost for many adults. We get busy with life, jobs, child rearing, etc. It's easy to let go of play because we don't realize how important it is. Technically, play involves a feeling of safety among friends along with feelings of connection and belonging. You then throw an element of risk into the mix. If you think about childhood games like Dodge Ball, Hide-and-Seek, Tag, etc., there was a risk involved in being 'found', being 'It', or being hit with a ball. Those risks brought about excitement. Happy excitement does good things for the brain.

     I have been thinking about the joys of play after spending a day last week with my four year old granddaughter. She initiated a day of outdoor play that was sublime. We chased after bubbles, climbed a little tree, swung on the tree swing, climbed rocks, and made flower nests. All the while, she narrated what we were pretending and what my role was to be. Soon, I was completely caught up in the play and when the day was done, I slept soundly. There was only the slightest element of risk; as much risk as a Nonni will allow a four-year-old in a tree. But there it was. : )

     In 2009 I began this blog in the model of a blog called, "Three Beautiful Things a Day". It was intended to help me move through the grief of losing my sister Charlette to cancer. Recently I learned that, "Practicing gratitude does not erase difficult emotions and grateful people do not deny the difficult aspects of life. However, practicing gratitude helps us access the positive side of the spectrum, moving our brains back into a neutral position." (Curable)

     So, my intention is to use this space to bring back around Gratitude, Joy, and Play. The first two will be easy. Play will be a challenge because at this point the scope of my playing revolves around the Scrabble board. But considering my age, most play will involve risk. Heck, walking down the stairs involves risk! So, I trust the age factor will make it easier to come up with ways to play.


Friday, March 25, 2022

Oh This World...

     Some days it is a struggle to go about our business when the news of the world is so disturbing. I purpose to keep busy and lose myself in the day at hand but my heart aches beneath it all. Most days I am 'making' something; making dinner, making the garden, making something from fabric and thread, making a sick friend more comfortable, making someone laugh, and so on. When we create or minster to others I think we are attempting to turn our emotions into something tangible and beautiful. Whether it's music, painting, sculpture, or some stitching, we can't help but take the raw materials God provides us and fashion them into something expressive and wonderful. And then there are those who tear down. I won't describe those people because we all have known someone like that or have observed them in the news. There are a multitude of reasons for why people tear down, you can imagine. Builders up and tearers down, this is my oversimplified version of things right now.

    Spring is in full swing in Virginia and I don't take one bloom for granted.  Wednesday was the darkest, rainiest day and even that was a wonderful day, turning everything greener. It was a good day to craft and sew. I alternate between hobbies and lately I have been sewing clothing. Last year I found some basic, wonderful patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing. I enjoy sewing with natural fibers like linen and cotton and these patterns were a great success with those. I am expanding my wardrobe with a few new pieces of color this year. I am also trying out a shirt dress pattern that is new to me and a little bit fussy to make with a collar. I am nervous about making this one a success mainly because I want it to work out so badly. Before I use expensive fabric on a new pattern like this, I sew a mock-up out of muslin. I have tried many patterns over the years that either didn't fit right and need adjustments or were not flattering at all. Making them up in muslin gives me a chance to make adjustments where needed or to scrap the pattern altogether. I do need to force myself to take this extra step because it is time consuming but, it is well worth the time spent in the long run.

    When I was a teenager, I embroidered designs onto my clothing and I thought it would be fun to do a bit of that again. Recently, I made a cell phone carry bag out of a piece of linen that I embroidered (Embroidery pattern by Blackbird Designs). It turned out nicely so I decided to sew embroidery onto the pockets of the next tunic I make. One thing about handcrafts is that there is a lot of time to think while making things (or pulling weeds!). Sometimes I fill the quiet with an audio book or podcast and other times I just let it be quiet so I can think and pray. 

     Today at noon the Pope will consecrate Russia and Ukraine. To non-Catholics this won't mean much but in the Catholic faith this is an historic, meaningful event with the hope of bringing peace to Russia and the world.