I had been struggling. I was being kept up at night by memories of things I had done wrong thirty years ago. It was silly really. I knew that I was too young to have a properly formed conscience then. I knew that I was forgiven. I even believed that I was a new creation in the Lord. Why then was I suffering?
I knew that I needed to confess this lack of faith in God’s forgiveness. I ran to the nearest church on the next Saturday evening; I was looking for peace. I wanted to put this burden down.
I encountered a priest I did not know and told him my list of ‘regular’ sins: impatience, anger, and I have been struggling with pride a lot lately. I am judging people without meaning to, thinking I know what they should do. Then, I quietly admitted this shame I had been feeling for past sins. "I’m being attacked," I said.
He thought for a moment and then said, “No, you are being given a gift.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying; how could shame be a gift? He said that I was experiencing sorrow for my sins, and although they were forgiven a long time ago, there were still consequences from them, including my overwhelming sorrow.
He said that he thought I was being allowed to feel this so that I could work more effectively on my sin of pride. Whenever I am tempted to judge, remembering my own sins and sorrow can help me to stop in my tracks.
It seems so obvious; why hadn’t that occurred to me before? Just as the Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us grace, I think that the priest also receives grace to stand in the place of Christ for us. This insight was not human, but divine, and I need that kind of direction.
As Catechists, we must attend to our own spiritual needs as well as those of our students. It is just like the airline attendants tell us on the planes, "Put on your own oxygen before you help those around you." Doing this helps us to stay healthy. It gives us insights we can share, grace that we need, and direction for our lives. Attending Mass, praying, and receiving the sacraments as often as we are able to will strengthen our own understanding and love of our faith. We can then pass on what we learn to our students. God Bless.