Tag Archives: priest

I Have Nowhere Else to Go

Photo: Amanda Slater via Wylio

I went to confession this past weekend. I try to go as often as I can; that is, when it doesn’t interfere with my family’s plans. I used to arrive about 10 minutes late. When I did, the line was like Walmart on a Saturday afternoon.

Sure enough, when I show up 10 minutes early, I still have to wait because, wouldn’t you know it, there is absolutely no line, and the priest is still getting ready. So this weekend I decided to arrive right on time. Like a game of roulette, I had to wait and see; I wasn’t able to let my wife know when I would be back.

It turned out there was only one person in line when I arrived. I noticed a man in his 30s who had just walked out of the confessional. He was looking around as if he wasn’t sure of the way out. He asked me if I knew which door led to the west parking lot. I told him and expected him to go on. No one usually speaks when they’re in the confessional line. It’s much too somber. Plus, I was feeling awkward as usual. Anytime that I’m outside of my home I feel awkward and self-conscious, as if everyone is staring at me, gazing at all my faults.

But the man didn’t go. Instead, he spoke to me. My heart sank; I knew what was coming. Those two dreaded words: small talk.

I was wearing my Knights of Columbus T-shirt, so I didn’t want to appear rude or odd. Like the vehicles that have the fish logo on the back: If they don’t drive like Christians, it would make them look bad.

Luckily he opened. “So, you’re a Knight?” he said, nodding toward the logo on the left breast of my shirt. Thank goodness. Something I could talk about with some degree of ease. He said he was also a Knight, but he wasn’t active. His council was located on the other side of Dallas, a very spread-out metropolis, so he was definitely far from home. His name, he told me, was Jim. Jim had just started a new job in the vicinity and was interested in joining my parish. I told him a little about my council and the parish in general. The confessional door opened, and suddenly it was my turn. We exchanged pleasantries and then parted ways.

The whole time my conscience was screaming at me inside my head. Invite him to the next council meeting! Tell him about the next pancake breakfast!

But, like so many times, I had blown my chance of helping someone. All because of my timidity.

I won’t even blame it on my illness. My awkwardness appeared worse than usual, probably because I was too focused on something that never materialized anyway: gaining the nerve to invite Jim to check out our council. I mean, the man could have been single and alone in this new phase of his life. He could also have been married or even widowed. I have no idea because I didn’t ask.

I could have stepped aside to speak with Jim some more. It’s not like the priests expect the line to always be full. Then I started thinking about other guys in my council and how they would have “made the most of every opportunity,” like those motivational posters declare.

When I was younger, I was a member of a church that many people, ex-members and others, described as cultish. We were required to “reach out,” meaning evangelize, every Monday. The other days were filled up with meetings, “discipling” groups, and two services per week.

I was forced to walk up to complete strangers in supermarkets, go door-to-door, and stop students on campuses with the pressure of getting a name and phone number. Every Friday we had to report our “numbers” to our superior, the dreaded “family group leader.” I hated this so much. Of course I never got many names and numbers because I felt so out of my element with those particular approaches.

Maybe those difficult years are still ingrained in my head. Maybe that’s why I avoid opportunities to meet new people or to suggest a church activity to interested people like Jim.

Yes, I’m expected to share my faith and evangelize because I’m a Christian. The Church recognizes this and has called for the New Evangelization. In the Bible, Jesus calls all believers to go forth and make disciples. But there’s a way to do it, and there’s a way not to do it.

I want to help people. I know what it means to suffer from mental illness and to start my life over after returning from the brink of death. We’re human; we all long for love and fellowship with one another. Atheists are starting to form their own “churches” on Sunday mornings because they realize their need to be loved, strengthened, and encouraged by others, even if they don’t believe in a Creator.

A lot of times it seems so hard to be a Christian. A lot of days I want to give up in order to ease the stress. But I have nowhere else to go. I’ve tried making my way in the world without God. I always ended up in my own hell. I am reminded of someone I heard on Catholic radio recently who said, “Atheists say we use God as a crutch. Why not use God as a crutch? People who are hurt and injured need crutches.”

Yes, I let Jim wander back outside into an unfamiliar and uncertain new life without offering anything. I pray that our paths will cross again soon. If they don’t, I pray that someone else won’t be too scared to offer a hand to him.

There are so many people in the world who are hurting. I am one of them. However, I’ve found that by taking the focus off myself, I can better help others. I mess up a lot, but I’ll keep at it. I have to. I have nowhere else to go.

~t


About Catholic Confession

This is *not* a good example of confession.

I try to go to confession as often as I can.  At my parish, it’s offered only on Saturday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:00.  Having a family that doesn’t practice Catholicism with me, it’s sometimes difficult to get time away to receive the Sacrament.

My wife, a non-Christian, is very good at tolerating my faith and all of the “extra events” that go along with weekly Mass (i.e. confession, Knights of Columbus meetings, volunteer activities, etc.).  She is from a country and culture that doesn’t place much emphasis on religion or faith; it’s a very secular society that she is from.  However, I’m very thankful that my wife is so open-minded and loving.  Heck, even when I practiced Wicca, she was okay with it — as long as I didn’t do anything “weird” or “cultish.”  (Um, Topaz, dude, witchcraft IS weird.  Shut up.)

Anyway, I just came back from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, colloquially referred to as confession.  I feel better than ever right now.  I always do after confessing all the muck and garbage that builds up inside of me.  It’s so incredible to know that my gross sins are absolved and that I am free to begin again!

But…

What happened BEFORE I went to confession is a different story.

Maybe just by reading the few paragraphs at the beginning of this post, you might think that I’m a Wonder Christian ™ who is always happy and “on fire” for Jeezus.

Ha.

Just take another look at the title of this blog.

Yep.

Now, I don’t want to blame the following on my mental illness which, by the way, includes bipolar disorder, paranoia, and social anxiety.  I am totally responsible for the following.  (Gosh, it sure helps that I’m anonymous!)

I have been taking part in some “binge and purge” type of actions.  As a male, I struggle all the time (yes, all the time) with lust and sexual temptation.  I go to confession, vow not to sin again, and then go home triumphantly.  For the next couple days, I do pretty well: When tempted to look impurely at a woman or to let myself be led to racy Internet images, I stop myself and then pat myself on the back.

It never fails, though.  After a few days of living like a monk, I get tempted beyond my own will power and give in.  Then, as I mentioned, it’s *binge and purge time*.

modern confessional

This is what the confessional at my parish looks like. No dreary dungeon atmosphere or musty smells here.

I can’t believe this happened earlier today (Actually, yes I can, because I’m a sinner.).  I had to stop by Target to get some items that my wife needed.  Mind you, I had already been indulging in lust and impurity before arriving at Target. However, Target, to me, is a palace of pleasure, a Sin City beneath the red doggy logo.

Huh? Target? The retail store?

Guys, I don’t know if you feel the same.  Ladies, I apologize if this seems sexist or offensive (which means I’m about to offend you).  But, it seems like the only people who shop at Target are the most attractive females in the most revealing outfits.

*bracing for all the hate mail*

Walking down the aisles, Satan was giving me left-right combinations to my face and chest, knocking me down and flinging me against the ropes.  My whole mindset inside Target was, “Well, I’m going to confession right after this, so I’ll take in as much flesh and voluptuous curves as I can.”

The impact of my sinful thinking didn’t really hit me until I was praying before the life-size crucifix in my parish after confession today.  It disgusted me that I was in such a pathetic state of mind, seeking out opportunities to fill my lustful heart.  I actually winced when God reminded me in prayer that I was using His gift of forgiveness as sin insurance.

No, I’m nowhere near a “Super Christian.”  Heck, I’m nowhere near a normal Christian.  I’m just a guy who, after lots and lots of studying and praying, became convinced that Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, was the Church of Christ and the way to God.

I’m not here to try to convince you (although I’m convinced) or argue with you.  I’ll leave that to the apologists.  That isn’t my bag anyway.

I’m not here to scream at you that you’re going to hell.  Only God knows the answer to that one.  (Hopefully I’m not going there by the way.)  Shoot, if I told my wife that she was currently on a one-way roller coaster ride to the Eternal Lake of Fire, I would no longer be able to urinate like a normal guy.

Anyway, I’m not a very good example of a Christian.  I (intentionally) sin.  But I always get up when I fall down — sometimes slowly, sometimes even more slowly.

God just wants you to be a person after His own heart.

~topaz