I spent Holy Week in a mad rush of waiting and then bustling and then back again, for early mornings and long nights in a cavernous church that was now full of flowers and palms and then later stripped of all such frivolity and then later filled with flowers upon flowers again. The sacred prayers. Immersion into the stories. Holy water splashed on faces, statues draped in purple, kisses of betrayal and love, feet-washed, songs sung.
In the midst of it all, I realized that I hadn’t made it to confession.
Maybe the concept of spilling sins to a man you barely know seems foreign and outdated and trite, but, heaven help me, there was nothing I wanted more than to find myself face-to-face with that grace before we hit the holiest day on the church calendar. Clean my mind, my soul, my self of those places I’ve fallen. Again.
Twelve+ hour days in beautiful churches, preparing.
(I can hear my spiritual director now, pointing me to the story of Mary and Martha.)
On Friday, in procession with hundreds of others, I spotted a priest visiting the area. I tapped him on the shoulder. We were about a quarter through the procession. Would he hear my confession?
We stepped out of the crowd, to the space off of the sidewalk, my foot resting on the curb. And from there I started. Sins old and new. A few of the favorites I’ve had since forever. A few that sneak out mostly when I’m too busy.
I recited them in the pattern I was taught in grade school, following the outline of the Ten Commandments, working my way through the list.
I paused, finished.
I squinted up at him in the bright afternoon sun.
“We want you to become the truest, brightest version of yourself,” he said to me, looking down at me (a tall priest), smiling.
I agreed, but looked down at the grass, now springing up, green, in the new season of life and growth.
He mentioned the things that are the deepest wounds, fertile grounds for my ever-returning failures. And he said, kindly, almost with joy: the mistake is not to fall again…the mistake is to give up the fight.
He was right.
We finished. We walked back to the crowd. The crowd jostled us apart.
And we watched Jesus fall again and again, on the road to Calvary that was really the roads of our neighborhood.
I watched carefully and noted–He never gave up the fight.