Penance

Confession World Youth Day Madrid 2011

20/08/2011 8:00 am

(Confession Photo WYD Banner)

Eleanor was just finishing lunch when I caught her. It was 3pm and I was melting like a marshmallow in the heat. She, however, grinned so cheerfully at me that I just had to ask - half-joking - whether Confession was at the root of it. (It was, after all, what we had sat down to talk about).
 
 She admitted, smiling even more broadly, that she had just got the grades to go to Oxford University to read Classics in September. She continued (after I had got through my awe-struck congratulations):
 
 "But Oxford aside, Confession does make me very happy every time I go. It's a general thing I've noticed with everyone who goes. It's like -" she looked around, gesturing expansively until she hit upon the right example, "-like taking a big bath after you've been really muddy for ages."
 
 A good example, I conceded. I wanted to know why.
 
 "It's like starting again. In fact," she frowned, "it IS starting again." I asked her to explain. "Confession is a Sacrament of the Church through which you approach Jesus to admit that you've done wrong, and you receive absolution - as in, you're forgiven by God Himself and you can move on from whatever you might have done."
 
 I asked her if she would recommend going to Confession to her Catholic friends.
 
 "Oh absolutely," she said. "In fact, one of my friends converted because she loved the idea of Confession so much."
 
 I wanted to know why she thought others might not like going to Confession.
 
 "Well I don't like it a lot of the time," she responded frankly. "But it's obviously because we don't like admitting we've done something wrong. It doesn't change the fact that you ARE wrong, though. Confession is the only thing that can make everything 'right' again. And you can feel it," she added happily.
 
 Playing devil's advocate, I remarked that it could be something based purely on 'feeling better', or a 'guilt complex', so why couldn't you just go to a therapist or psychologist?
 
 Eleanor seemed ready for it.
 
 "You could see it that way," she conceded fairly. "But therapy deals with the person totally subjectively. In Confession you're looking at yourself, yes, but you're looking at yourself against something objective: right and wrong, loving God or not loving Him. That's not anything to do with therapy, which looks at a person on a totally different level." She looked at me. "Do you get what I mean?"
 
 I said I did (and I did, having gone myself last week).
 
 "It just helps me off-load and stops me from bottling things up until I explode."
 
 - Chris Parreno
 

The Holy Father will be hearing the confessions of three young volunteers today in three languages – French, Italian and German. This is part of a huge ‘Festival of Forgiveness’ taking place during the course of the World Youth Day week and the Days in the Diocese.

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