The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stairway to Heaven

This last Tuesday evening I went to the reconciliation service at St. Mathew's near where I live. Technically, this should be my home parish, but I have too many ties and I'm involved with so many ministries at St. Cecilia that it would be difficult to switch parishes. I deeply appreciate the deep reverence for the sacraments the priests at St. Mathews offer and how they encourage the congregation to do likewise.

Well over 300 people attended this service which consisted of praying the Liturgy of the Hours followed by nine priests and one bishop hearing individual confessions. The confessors were strategically positioned around the church to ensure privacy. I decided to go to a particular priest whom I knew from past experience to be a good confessor. Some folks define a good confessor as a priest that gives easy penance; however, I question if those people understand the beauty of this sacrament. For me, a good confessor is simply a priest who images Christ. Sitting down with this priest is as close as one can come to sitting down with Jesus and having a father son talk about where I went wrong and where I can do better.

The priest I wanted to see was stationed in choir loft and so one had to go up a flight of stairs to reach him. As the confessions began a line quickly formed down these stairs. I watched my fellow sinners in line. Some were a little nervous. Others read from prayer books. And still others gazed into the past and you could tell they were mentally preparing themselves for the sacrament. We were all waiting for healing not much unlike our brethren in Purgatory. The big difference being that the when the souls in Purgatory finally get into Heaven, they stay. Here, after encountering Christ in this healing sacrament, one had to go back down the stairs and face living in a sinful world full of the tempations that got one into trouble in the first place. Thanks Adam and Eve.

The line didn't move quickly. A good confessor takes his time with each soul he brings Christ to, and this priest takes that seriously. From the bottom of the stairs looking up I could only see a narrow portion of the ceiling of the Church; however as I neared the top of the stairs, slowly the crucifix that hangs over the alter came into view. There was our Lord, crucified, so I could have a chance at eternity.

A few steps more and a portion of the sanctuary was made visible. There was the alter and the tabernacle. Christ was present. One more step and I viewed the whole sactuary from the bird's eye view of the choir loft. The scene was moving. On each side of the alter was a confession station where a priest was hearing, counseling and absolving sinners. It was such a perfect picture that I wished I could have had a camera at that moment. I felt I had an angel's view from heaven, looking down upon the sancturary with the image of our crucified Lord over the alter, and those He came to save getting back into a state of grace with Him.

My own confession went well as I hoped it would. I won't go into detail other than to refer to the words of St. John in describing the roots of all sin:

"For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2:16).

Absolved from my sin, I walked down the stairs renewed and ready to face the world again; hoping that I could remain in this state of grace and thankful for this sacrament of forgiveness when I inevitably fall. Our lives are a stairway to heaven. Each step we take with love brings us closer to our ultimate destination, and sin is our walking down the stairs instead of up; however, Our Lord never closes the door to our salvation. His mercy and forgiveness keeps us moving always up to where the view is one of splendor, grace, and perfection.


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