This is a good article to give to your Protestant friends, maybe even for Christmas.
First, I have a quick story to tell — and it is a true story — regarding another Protestant convert’s first two confessions; he is a friend of mine. For his first confession, the elderly retired priest who baptized him a Catholic (in case, si capax est, his Dutch Reformed baptism had been invalid) called him immediately after his baptism into the sacristy and pointed to a two-door closet while motioning for him to enter inside through one of the doors. Not quite sure why, he did as told. The little cubicle (the “box” as we Catholics affectionately call it) was stacked with books — and it was fairly dark. Then, when he was inside, he heard the voice of the priest calling to him from a grille on the other side of the closet saying “kneel down.” He did. Then the priest told him to confess all his sins that he could remember from his whole life. Just like that. Of course the priest had told him beforehand about the sacrament of penance but our new Catholic just did not know that it would take place so quickly after his conditional baptism. (Yes, if a convert is “conditionally” baptized, he, unlike a non-Christian, must go to confession.) Well, that was that.
After a few weeks went by my friend remembered some more sins and prepared to go to his second confession. For this he was better prepared. My friend went to his home parish and waited his turn for confession on a Saturday afternoon. He had been instructed this time exactly what to do. “Go to the end of the line,” his Catholic wife told him, “and wait your turn to enter the box'”. This was in New Jersey. In New Jersey confession was done in a more civilized manner than in New England. In New England one must play musical chairs waiting for confession. Penitents slide down the pews or shift pew to pew hoping to keep their spot and not get cut off by a regular in a hurry. As my readers from New England know, this requires a lot of turning around and sometimes indicating with one’s finger pointing to oneself that “Yo, I’m next.” Well, my friend’s turn came and he pushed aside the curtain and entered the inner sanctum. This box was even darker than the one he entered for his first confession. It was so dark that all he could see was the light from the grille. So, there he stood, in the dark, waiting at the grille for the shutter to open. He had been told by his wife to wait for the opening of the shutter and the words of the priest, Dominus sit in corde tuo, etc. before confessing. So, he was ready, nervous, but ready. What he had not been told was that there was a kneeler below the grille. And, did I say, it was dark? Ah, the shutter finally opened. My friend had to bend over at a 60 degree angle in order to line up his face with the grille. He had no clue about the kneeler that he could not see. The experienced father sensed that the voice of this penitent, as he started to say “Bless me, father,” was a bit strained. He even figured out that the penitent was still standing by his uncomfortable tone. The good father interrupted him and asked “Are you standing or kneeling?” My friend says “standing, father.” “Well please kneel down, it’ll be easier for the both of us.” “Oh, says my friend,” so he starts to kneel down. “Starts to,” I say, because he ended up missing the kneeler. Yes, he missed the kneeler. So badly did he miss the kneeler that he lost his balance and tumbled out of the confessional holding on to the curtain, sprawled out on the floor. Luckily the curtain didn’t unhook. Some good souls waiting on line helped him to his feet while others left the line and went across the church to the other confessional. “Must be some tough padre,” they surmised! The priest meanwhile had opened his door. Was the good priest laughing? (No doubt he was.) My friend does not remember that, he was too much in shock. Back inside the box he went, red-faced and somewhat bogeyed, but much the wiser. Now, let us turn to a more serious article.
Patheos, the cordial catholic, K.Albert Little: I’m utterly convinced that confession is the single greatest gift God gave to our weary world.
Forgiveness of our sins, yes, but through confession.
It’s the mechanism that makes sense of the salvation story in a way that I couldn’t have possibly imagined before becoming Catholic.
Confession is an incredible gift. Full article is here.