If I could do one thing differently in returning to the Catholic Church, I’d try to pay more attention.
Sometime in the next month or so is my second anniversary of being Catholic. Well, kind of. I’ve really been Catholic since I was baptised at age eight. But I have no idea when that was and all I remember from it was that I got a pretty dress and we to Yum Cha afterwards.
So it’s really my second anniversary of “re-becoming” Catholic. You’d think I’d remember something as significant as my return, that I’d have photos or some sort of commemorative thing. I don’t. In my defence, that’s not entirely my fault.
But let me explain.
After I decided to “become” Catholic (which happened two years ago today!), and because I’d already been baptised, onfirmed & “First-Holy-Communioned”, I went to the next scheduled Confession slot at a local parish.
I arrived right on time. Not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself.
Except the door was locked.
I waited about twenty minutes but… nothing. Seriously!?
The next week, I was running late and arrived ten minutes after Confession started. This time, the door was open but the confessional was empty. Again, I waited but clearly the priest had been and left.
That was frustrating, but I said a prayer and I made a plan.
I wasn’t going to be stymied that easily.
I drove to a biggish church I knew a parish or two over, hoping they would still have Confession. When I saw the sign saying it was scheduled right now, I was thrilled and relived — and suddenly incredibly nervous. There seemed an unusual number of people waiting in the pews. Even more odd, there absolutely no movement in or out of the Confessional. Now, I was very new to this Catholic thing but I was pretty sure confession wasn’t meant to take that long…
Minutes past, then half-an-hour had gone by, and everyone — particularly me — started getting restless. What on earth was going on?
Finally, a lady walked into the church and announced, ever so apologetically, that the priest scheduled to hear confessions had forgotten about it.
He was playing golf instead.
Needless to say, I was not in good mood after that.
I spoke to a friend about it. She suggested going to a weekday mass and cornering the priest afterwards. He would be far less busy then and could probably either hear my confession right then and there.
That week, I went to a daily mass at another local parish. Unfortunately, the day I chose just so happened to be the day the primary school next door had their mass… for the whole school. It was at least one hundred primary school kids in green plaid uniforms, a few proud parents (and some bored ones too) — and then me.
After mass, there was no point even trying to speak to Father. I was seriously ready to give up.
But I’m a stubborn thing and I desperately wanted to be received back into Holy Mother Church. I would be Catholic and by God, I would go to that mass every morning until a priest heard my confession. That night, I set my alarm, prayed I’d wake up in time, and went to sleep.
I woke up alright — but it wasn’t in the morning.
It was the middle of the night.
I had a temperature, a killer headache and I tried to get painkillers from the bathroom, I promptly threw up.
I was ill for the next few weeks, and in an even fouler mood for several weeks after that. Finally, I realised that the only person happy about my delaying confession was the devil — and hard as it to believe, I do try to avoid pleasing him at all costs.
I went to another local parish. Hesitating in the pews because I didn’t know if we were supposed to be a line or what (they were no signs), I almost missed confession again. It ended and afterwards was Benediction. But, strengthened by the graces of the Eucharist, I tip-toed up to the sacristy and asked if the priest would mind hearing my confession. He’d already packed up but graciously agreed.
I confessed my sins. The priest was lovely. I cried a lot. He gave me absolution and for penance, a Hail Holy Queen. Except he also had to give me a holy card from the stall because I had no idea what that was.
Then I drove home, bone-weary and joyful. I finally did it!
I was officially Catholic, reconciled to God and to the Church, through the holy sacraments of Baptism and Confession.
I wish I knew the dates of those sacraments. As it is, I have to content myself with knowing the date of my inner conversion: that night when I broke down, crying and on my knees, told God I would go to the Catholic Church if that was His will.
To be honest, I didn’t think Step One would be quite so difficult to do. But despite locked doors, golfing priests and nasty germs, I returned to the Catholic Church.
Today, two years after that decision, I’m still amazed God managed it.