As a former Protestant who had never experienced the healing and forgiveness offered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is difficult to express how privileged I feel to now have access to this incredible sacrament of healing.
Some years ago, while preparing to be received into full communion with the Church, the time came for my “dreaded first confession.” At least that is how I thought of it. In fact, there was one thing in particular I dreaded to confess; the abortion my wife and I had some 17 years previously. I had not understood why the pain would not go away, even though I had repented of it publicly and privately many times. I knew I was forgiven and I accepted that forgiveness, but the pain and the darkness remained. Tenaciously.
As I Protestant, I had always thought of sin as doing something wrong, breaking a rule, that needs to be “forgiven.” But I had not considered that sin also does great damage to the fabric of my being – damage that needs to be healed even after the forgiveness is granted. So, basically, I didn’t yet understand that forgiveness and healing are not the same thing. And I didn’t understand that God provides special graces in the sacraments.
During my first confession, I cried like a baby when the abortion issue came up. Afterwards, the priest simply said, “abortion is a huge one, and sometimes no amount of penance can do – only God’s mercy.” He gave me a penitential Psalm to pray as my penance.
I went into the Cathedral and knelt down before Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist in the Adoration Chapel and prayed the Psalm. As I prayed the words asking for God’s mercy – and this is weird I understand – I heard a voice. It was the voice of Stephen Timothy, my son. He said, “Dad. It’s OK. I forgive you, and I’m with Jesus now.” The word “Dad” brought tremendous healing to my soul that I cannot describe. That part of me that never really felt like a true father (because real fathers don’t kill their children, they care for them) gently dissolved. And something deep healed in my soul. And I came to understand on that day the power and beauty that God has given us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
-- Barry Peratt, Winona