Saturday, April 3, 2010

Failure, yes.

I never thought I would see the Lent - and Holy Week - in which I did not make it to Ash Wednesday Mass, or to Maundy Mass, or to confession. So there's a first. Yet it's also a first in which I stuck to my Lenten vows.

How did I not make it to those three? It's called a new job. What, how did you not make it to confession? Well, I did make it to confession, in a sense. I went on a Wednesday evening after work this holy week (I got off early) to a parish that has regular scheduled confessions at that time, but at the time I went, there was a notice posted on the doors that said there was no confession tonight because all the priests have gone to some chrism mass. I went into the church nonetheless to just make sure, and sure enough, no welcoming little green light with the door ajar, but people practising their voices for Easter vigil Mass.

I don't know how true all that "intention" stuff is; you know, if you make the effort to go to confession and something prevents it that is out of your power then the absolution still applies. Though, of course you still have to confess as you would when you get the opportunity, or make the opportunity.

Once, I lined up for confession (well, I was the only one in line) before a Vietnamese mass, and the priest came out and said to go to him after mass for confession and that I could go up for communion.

Once, I was in line for confession (at the same parish) before mass and the time for mass came about before I could get into the confessional (same priest doing confession as does the mass, and there were people before me) and the lady who was standing next to me explained that I could go up to communion, explaining the intention thing.

That the Sacraments transcend time and our linear undertsanding of it is no stumbling block to me, but I wonder. I once listened to a priest tell about how Mass has already started when you make the intention to go...very profound stuff. Yet the Sacraments operate within time.

I know this new job is God's will for me (I may explain it later), and think He has been showing me something this Lent and Holy Week (of course God is showing everybody something all the time). I'll admit that I have too often gone into confession as though the whole thing was dependent on my own strength, or my own effort; not predominantly, but there is a tinge of it; sometimes more than a tinge. But a tinge is enough.

Maybe there is a part of me that doesn't quite believe in God's forgiveness, or more accurately, believes in the forgiveness but doesn't quite own it. No, it is perhaps a matter of trusting more and more, which if we do not do, we relapse; we start to go backwards.

Recently the word that has been growing in my mind is that everything, everything, comes to naught. And that this is good news. For everything will come to naught but for a New Thing. (This is sounding more grim than I intended...words slip, slide, perish, not what I really intended and all that.) The light of the resurrection blasts away our Lenten offerings and devotions, our good intentions with the bad ones (not an excuse to cease devotions, offerings, and intentions, etc.). In the midst of our strife we are called away, and some simple questions are asked of us: what did you do for Me - clothe Me, feed Me, shelter Me, visit Me?

I love Holy Saturday, for its mixture of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, or as a space between them both, being the silent aftermath of one and the tingling anticipation of the other. I wish everyone would speak in hushed tones on this day; this day of each-man-to-his-own, before the stone door is rolled away. Instead of getting their turkeys and hams.


Enbrethiliel said...


Happy Easter, Paul!

Your post reminds me of Terry Nelson's meditation (which I can't find now, unfortunately) on his own need to work during Good Friday. The first Good Friday was "business as usual" in Jerusalem and all over the world; and though the Passion of Jesus is available to all us at any time of the year, we're very "business as usual" on other days, too . . . Hmmmmm, that doesn't really sound like what Terry said . . . but his point was that having to be at work on Good Friday doesn't have to be a distraction; it can be as contemplative as spending the whole day in prayer.

I also recall one penance St. Faustina was given: she wasn't allowed to fast, but had to eat up a big bowl of delicious stew while meditating on the vinegar Jesus was given to drink on Calvary. When she was done with her meal, she said that she could never have imagined how edifying it would turn out to be for her soul.

(Oh, and I've got that "You may receive Communion as long as you come to me right after Mass for Confession" from a priest as well. I considered it a special dispensation just for the day, and have never assumed that I could always do that--but that's a personal discipline on my part.)

Anyway, this has been a Holy Week of disconcerting precedents for me, too. I am desperate to write it all down and share it with some people, but it's not something for Shredded Cheddar. What has kept me from starting it is the question of whom to show it to--and how to show it to them.

christopher said...

If it's any consolation to either of you, I've probably had my worst Lent and Holy Week also. I did make it Ash Wednesday and confession a few times early on but otherwise, disastrous. But yet, there's always today... Christ HAS risen. Happy Easter to you. :)

Owen said...

Excellent post, yes!

Paul Stilwell said...


I actually read Terry's beautiful meditation just last night, catching up on blogs! I've had a number of "confirmations" reading his blog. This kind of detachment that enables work to become contemplation is priceless, and yet we're so easily distracted from it. Or at least I am. But I think even in those distractions it can become fused with Christ's Passion, especially if the entire day is offered at the end. Which of course, as you pointed out, was part of Terry's point.

I'm very moved also by that anecdote (Anecdote! We need to come up with a better word for little stories of big spiritual heft.) about St. Faustina. I had never heard it before. I'm stowing it away in my vault.

I know what you mean. This post barely squeaked by through fairly gritted teeth. But now you have me intrigued and I want to read about what you have to write. (I think - probably selfishly think - you should start a new blog for it. While keeping Shredded Cheddar of course. It's probably out of the question though.)

Which reminds me, I need to email you for that top ten list.


A very happy Easter to you and your family.

"But yet, there's always today... Christ HAS risen."

Yes, I smile to think about it, that it happens anyway...


Thank you! I found reading your posts at Luminous Miseries edifying. God bless, and happy Easter.

Enbrethiliel said...


Paul, I'm way ahead of you. I've already thought about creating a second (a third?) blog just for it, and I just may do that this week.