11 September 2003


There have been a few posts about good and evil going around St. Blog's, by Eve Tushnet, and Amy Welborn.
My experience:

Evil possesses a person. Oftentimes, they have no idea to what extent it possesses them. Even some people who seem to others to be good, kind, caring, generous, pure, forgiving, and patient may be enslaved to evil. I do not believe that anyone can know how tightly bound they are by these chains until they make a thorough examination of conscience and speak their sins out loud, in the Sacrament of Confession. I certainly did not know.
Like most people, I suppose, I'm still a slave to my favorite sins. It's hard not to be discouraged when I find myself repeating the same list over and over in the confessional. But I know that I am a little less enslaved than I used to be. How do I know this? Now, I can admit to my sins. It wasn't that way for a long time, most of my short life in fact.
My parents did not take me to the church for confession, because my parent's weren't married in the Church until I was 13, so obviously they didn't go themselves. I made my first confession just before my First Communion when I was 7, and that was the end of that until I was 11, when I went to a school that actually set aside hours each month for the students to receive this sacrament. I think I went once or twice a year after that until I was 17. Why so infrequently, when it was available twice a week at my parish, and at least monthly at my school?
The very idea of going into a confessional made me sick to my stomach. I would get so nervous, I'd start shaking. And from the time I was 12, there was this one sin I could never admit to. I'd go, but I'd hold back, and it did not feel like I held back of my own will. I was so captivated by this sin that I could not speak it aloud, even when I knew only God was listening. I was barely able to admit to myself that it was even a sin.
My worst experience was probably with a priest who admonished me for one sin for almost five minutes, while I knelt in the torturous certainty that what I hadn't told him was so much worse than what I had. If what I had told him really merited a reproof of this magnitude, how awful must the other sin be! This only made admitting it even harder.
Finally, last year, I was able to confess everything. Since then, I have gone to confession almost monthly. I still get nervous, but I no longer tremble or feel ill, and I no longer spend an hour weeping in my room afterwards. I fall, and I know my sins are great, but I can rejoice in the knowledge that I am forgiven.

Other people think I'm good. I've been praised for the virtues I mentioned above, even by my parents, who theoretically know me better than any other (ordinary) humans. Little do they know. But at least now I know that breaking chains is possible, though years of tears and heartache may precede it.

Sin isn't one chain that binds you. It is many chains, and they tend to be intertwined. You have to break through them one at a time. Some are stronger, thicker, harder to break than others. Sometimes breaking one makes it a lot easier to break others, but other times the Devil is just waiting to throw another chain at you and see if it holds. All the chains can be broken, though.

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