Thursday, December 28, 2000

More Yuletide fallout.

Warning: Catholic apologia herein.

Back at work, the week between Christmas and New Year's. It's an unfamiliar feeling for me; my first Christmastide back in Corporate America after eight years working in academia. But even though I'm back at my desk, my spiritual preoccupations linger. On the advice of my confessor, I've set aside ten minutes a day for prayer...

Mm. My confessor. How, uh... quaint.

The sacrament of Penance is out of fashion, yeah. I don't do it often—usually only during Advent, when my temper is at its shortest and my self-loathing at its highest—that is, when I need it the most.

There's a lot of resistance to the idea of absolution via public confession of sins--the apparent paradox of admitting misdeeds to a priest, who is, after all, Just A Guy and Just As Fucked-Up And Prone To Sin As Oneself. At first glance, the idea of private confession—i.e., speaking directly to God in prayer and receiving absolution straight from Him—makes more sense, no?

But there is, as there often is, beauty in the paradox. It takes humility to admit one's sins directly to God, even to oneself; how much more humility to admit them to someone who's Just Another Sinner? How much more sincere the repentance? And how astonishing to find absolution, to see God's grace at work, through such a flawed conduit? It doesn't cheapen the absolution: rather, it exalts the absolver.

There's more to this than I'm qualified to discuss. I wanted to link to a long article (two full pages in the front section!) that ran in the 10 December 2000 Boston Sunday Globe, but I couldn't seem to find it their archives. It was essentially a 3,000-word blowjob for the Church, but it was intelligent, engagingly written, and frank in its acknowledgment that penance is in danger of vanishing entirely from mainstream American Catholicism.

On a somewhat weirder note, a Google search on "penance" turned up all kinds of creepy shit, including an X-Men fan page, a dodgy dark metal band, stories from, the pathetic and frightening "True Catholic Church," (to which I shall surely turn my attentions again, some day), and a boatload of sad goth stuff, including generous dollops of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic.

Jesus wept, indeed.

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