Thursday, January 17, 2008


We are in the midst of a Kentucky snowstorm. So far we've had approximately one inch of snow. It makes my day. When I went outside to get my morning paper, my neighborhood had a serene blanket of snow on the trees and bushes and lawn. It's not much but it is beautiful.

In the Catholic Church we have sacraments. One of the sacraments is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the old days it was called "Confession" or "Penance". It is misunderstood by many Catholics and most non Catholics. In this sacrament, people go to a priest and confess their sins. When I was a boy this was a scary experience. We used to go into a "confessional", that was like being in a box, where there was a kneeler and a screen. On the other side of the screen was the priest. We always prayed that he didn't recognize our voices and know who we were and that we were lucky enough to get the nice young priest and not the older pastor. I never actually fainted in the confessional but I was always nervous. Later in life, when I was in the seminary, I was introduced to the "face to face" confession. Oddly enough, this wasn't nearly as frightening as the childhood experience of being in the confessional. It felt more like a counseling session and less like a proclamation of all my personal failings. In today's world Catholics don't seem to go to "Confession" as much as they used to do. I am one of those Catholics. In my childhood the Nuns marched us into church and made us go whether we wanted to go or not. Sometimes I ask myself why I don't go more often. The experience is often quite cathartic and cleansing. Now I am not a perfect person but I don't think I am on the highway to hell either. I find myself asking "What is sin"? Most of my "sins" seem little more than typical human weaknesses. Do I really need to confess these week after week or month after month? Last Saturday I attended a reconciliation service at my church. It included "Confession". I found myself wondering "What is my sin"? I thought about all the times I visited doctor's offices and had to fill out my medical history. If I filled out a "sin history", what condition would I be diagnosed with? What is my "illness"? Are our patterns of sin similar to our accumulated physical aches and pains? Is our sinfulness nothing more than symptoms of a more serious illness? Do we have spiritual sickness the same way we have physical sickness? If we add up and evaluate our symptoms of spiritual sickness, can we name our sin? I also find myself wondering about the relationship between sin, illness, and the way I relate to life. All of my adult life I have suffered with intestinal problems. My personality type is considered a "gut" type. Is there a connection? Is there a cause and effect relationship between our sinfulness, our bodies, and the way we react to life through our personalities? I don't know for sure but I suspect all these things are related.

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