I spent a lot of time making mistakes when I was a teenager.  Huge mistakes.  In fact, I think I’d call 14-19 pretty much a write-off.

But there was a woman in those years who did something for me that stuck even to this day.  She wasn’t a mentor, or a friend, but she was a teacher.  And she did say something to me that, like Jamie MacDonald’s comment to me last year at the Humorous District finals, changed the way I looked at myself forever.

Mrs. Gorski was my English teacher the year I was 16 in high school.  Despite my constant screw-ups, I always managed a decent grade in English because I really liked it.

One day out of the blue, Mrs. Gorski said to me ” There’s a public speaking contest coming up Paula.  I think it’s something you’d be good at.  You should enter your essay about the Canadian Identity.”

Right away my heart began to pound faster.  I knew I wanted to try it.

I don’t remember much about preparing for it but I do remember giving my speech.  I remember people laughing and then clapping.

I won the contest.  It was the first thing of any merit I had done in YEARS.  I felt solidified.  I felt amazing.  I came in 2nd in the impromptu contest as well.

I went on the compete in the city finals and I still remember the big stage so high up; I remember seeing the crowd in front of me.  I remember my fellow competitors.  I remember the rush.  I still have the newspaper clipping in my scrapbook.  🙂

I wonder what may have been if there had been something for me to go to AFTER that.  There wasn’t though, so I just went back to drinking and smoking pot.

But I’ll tell you, through the nonsense and hell of the next decade and a half of my life, that accomplishment stayed with me as something I was proud of.  Something of merit that I knew I had some talent in.  It may have been that grain of hope that God used to keep me afloat during the foolish years, until I finally came up for air.  I have Mrs. Gorski to thank for that.  I am forever in her debt.

Who was your Mrs. Gorski?

Ok, I will.  My third speech, which I didn’t get around to writing till I had been with TM for 6 months was about something I’d been thinking about a lot at that time.  Confession.  Yeah, weird I know.  I was just 2 months away from converting to Catholicism at the time and decided to give a speech about what to me, was the most important part of the whole process.  Being a person who needs to be accountable due to my pathetic lack of fortitude, I knew confession would be good for me.  And I suspected it would be good for everyone.  Research backed that up.  Here is my third speech given on February 9, 2009:

 

Confession – It’s Good for the Soul

 

     Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  This is my first confession in 40 years.

These are the words that my priest is going to hear from me in a matter of months.  I’m thinking about bringing him a 3 course meal because we’re going to be there a while.  I will officially become a Catholic on Easter Vigil this year and this is one of the sacraments that I will be receiving; the Sacrament of Reconciliation, more commonly known as confession.  I both anticipate and dread this event.  I imagine it will be painfully difficult confessing the sins of a largely morally bankrupt lifetime.  I’ve come to realize however, that confession is something I’ve always longed for; I know that purging my wrongdoings and being forgiven for them will be helpful in overcoming them.  I believe that this is an innate knowledge and need of all people.  Difficult as it is, confession is good for the soul and it is something that everyone should try to do regularly, if not at least once.

For those of you unfamiliar with confession, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what it is.  It involves three steps: First, the person’s genuine sorrow for their sins; Next, the actual confession of those sins to a priest and the receiving of absolution, and finally, restitution for your sins. Absolution is the forgiveness of sins, and it is Jesus Christ who forgives the sins through the priest.  That’s what makes it so special for Catholics.  The experience is meant to lead one to a conversion of the heart; a desire to break free from one’s sins.

I’ve been told that confession gives one a wonderful sense of freedom and peace from the burden of sin.  Some people believe we can confess our sins privately to God, and we can.   But humans are social beings. The humbling experience of unburdening your soul to someone, of exposing your weaknesses, and then being accepted for who you are and what you have done by having your sins forgiven must bring one an incredible sense of relief and gratitude, compassion and mercy. 

It’s not just Catholics who have a need to confess though.  Many non-Catholic Christians are resurrecting some form of confession.  In the Jewish faith, the day of Yom Kippur, the most important of the Jewish holy days, is set aside for public and private confessions of guilt. In Islam, there is no ‘formal’ confessional practise, but verses in the Quran speak of the importance of confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness from a merciful God.  In Buddhism, confessing one’s faults to a superior is an important part of Buddhist practice.

And there are dozens of secular on-line confessional sites as well, including experienceproject.com with over 2 million posts, and dailyconfession.com with hundreds of thousands of confessions.  Liveperson.com actually charges a dollar a minute for confessions to be heard.  The proliferation of tell-all talk shows and reality shows are at least anecdotal evidence of people’s want for confession, as is the popularity of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors.  As less people have participated in the formal spiritual confessional, they have obviously found other ways to do so.

And now science is proving what God already knew.  In the central nervous system, serotonin plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the modulation of anger, aggression, mood, sleep, human sexuality, appetite, and metabolism.   Some very interesting research at Harvard found that the greatest flow of serotonin in the brain came through re-experiencing and verbalizing the experiences of loss.

  The human spirit seeks the cleansing of confession, the renewal of the heart, the tabula rasa availed in this practice.  Confession is actually step 5 in the 12 step addiction recovery process and restitution is step 9.  AA describes confession as the foundation of a “full and meaningful sobriety: Emerging from isolation through the honest sharing of our terrible burden of guilt.”  In other words, ‘secrets get you drunk’.  They do more than that too.  There are too many incidences of people being driven to terrible acts of self-destruction because of the weight of a heavy secret.

As you know, all of us at some point have had to make a confession to someone.  Some of us more than others.  And we all know how good it felt to get that monkey off of our back.  Confession is beyond a psychological session. Confession is a communal act, because our actions do not belong to just us, but rather to the whole community. What we do to ourselves affects those around us.  And the better we are, the better we can help others to be and the world at large.

“Confession is good for the soul,” says a Scottish proverb from the 1600’s and I believe it to be true.  But I’ll let you know for sure in a couple months.  In the meantime, why not pay a visit to your confessional?