As a cradle Catholic and as part of a strong Catholic family, it was always expected of me to go to confession at least 2 times a year. After high school graduation and moving away from home those times became few and far between until it was years since my last confession. It wasn’t until after I was married and had children that it become important to me again, but honestly, only because of the good example I wanted to set for my own children. And still that was very sporadic.
It was about 2002 when I began to feel the need and desire to study and strengthen my faith, to be more intentional about it. (I can’t explain this desire other than what St Augustine said “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”) And I thank God for that restlessness because only He knew what my future held and how I would need Him for strength. I started attending a bible study and reading more Catholic books. I was given a book written by Matthew Kelly called “Rediscover Catholicism.” That book alone has taught me so much and inspired me to be more intentional about my faith. The chapter about reconciliation really spoke to me so I returned to the sacrament and began to feel the healing and the strength of Christ.
In 2008 at the age of 20 our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The phone call from the doctor on that fateful evening is one I will never forget. This is where my journey of faith took on an even deeper meaning and desire. I needed the strength to persevere and I knew I needed it from Him. I made the conscious decision that I would go to confession once a month. I stuck to that decision and I know that is part of what got me through that year. By the middle of 2009 our son had recovered from his surgery and continued his college education. He was doing great and all seemed to be normal again…until August 2009 when my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. How could I get through another brain surgery? Only by the Grace of God. And that grace and strength I believe came through the sacrament of reconciliation. Because the priest is acting as Christ, there is an all-encompassing feeling of acceptance, forgiveness, and renewal. It is not just a cleansing and renewing experience but also a strengthening experience. Each time, my worry, fear, and anxiety seemed to disappear. I felt sure that no matter what happened, I was going to be okay. I was very surprised as I continued my monthly routine of reconciliation when I started to feel drawn to the sacrament, wanting to be there but not sure why (of course I’m a sinner and needed forgiveness and healing) but I didn’t understand that draw until the priest said to me “It’s because of the grace you receive when you are here.”
My husband’s brain tumor was not cancerous and over the course of the next 6 years our son’s fight with cancer had its ups and downs. He finished college and grad school and became a Doctor of Chiropractic. Shortly after his graduation, the cancer took over and 4 months later, he passed away. Looking back, I am truly grateful for the Holy Spirit and the desire he put on my heart to return to the sacrament of reconciliation. It is hard to put into words what I began to feel. But the biggest changes in me were a deepening sense of hope, strength and peace. I know my journey could never be endured through my own human strength.
I strongly encourage you to make that bold step toward the sacrament no matter what your struggles are. You will be greatly blessed. Though any loss is difficult, I am often asked “How do you endure the loss of a child?” My answer? Through the sacrament of reconciliation. I believe God meets us where we are and there is no better place than in our state of repentance to receive His gift of Grace.
Monica Burtis, Fairmont, MN