Written by parishioner Lana Kaczmarek
After a night spent in prayer, I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and enlightened. I immediately grabbed my phone and unloaded my emotional insight to my spiritual director, Father Adam. We had been working on further developing my relationship with God by recognizing the lies I had believed throughout my life. After we uncovered the truth behind these specific lies, Father Adam offered me some other tools to use in order to continue to navigate my spiritual life. During a previous conversation, he mentioned St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment as one resource for me to follow. Father Adam then proposed I prepare for St. Ignatius' general confession, which entails a confession of my entire life. I initially hesitated to accept his proposal because I felt I was never great at confessing my sins and was reluctant to uncover some hidden truths. He reassured me throughout this initial process.
“Preparation is a wild ride…but filled with so many graces,” Father Adam said.
“Haha, oh boy! Can’t wait,” I hesitantly answered.
“The best way I can describe it…you’re on the initial drop of a rollercoaster. Starts off with all kinds of beautiful readings in scripture to build you up. Next thing you know, you’re doing meditation on your sinfulness and hell…then wham! —, you’re picked right back up. Super fun time,” Father Adam explained.
“I’m nervous but excited for the graces and to expose the lies that have been ruling my life,” I responded.
Despite this initial fear, I trusted Father Adam’s judgement completely as I knew he would never lead me astray. I let my guard down and wholeheartedly agreed that I would embrace this challenge as I wanted to work on bettering myself and healing those forsaken wounds.
The process for the general confession was quite taxing. When I had received the first set of readings, I was surprised by my initial hesitation as those readings focused on intimacy and trust, God’s providential care, and God’s unconditional love. During this season of the pandemic, it became easy for me to dwell on all that I didn’t have, rather than accept the blessings that were placed before me. As I sat in prayer each night, my heart softened to all of the areas God had shown me grace through his merciful love. I developed a deeper bond with myself by recognizing the areas of my life where either God had protected me, or I had been reluctant to accept God’s protection by fighting for what never was. While going through these readings, I had blinded myself to the fact that I would be entering into the transition of acknowledging sin through holy indifference. Stupidly, I had forgotten that there would be more readings than those first few sets, so I had taken my time to complete the first few. With Advent approaching, after touching base with Father Adam, I set a timeline of growing in nightly prayer that focused on this general confession. Prior to starting this process, I had become accustomed to contacting Father Adam outside of spiritual direction and telling him my thoughts of insight I had received throughout my spiritual journey. Before I began this path, we agreed that I should save my thoughts until our spiritual direction sessions. Although I had initially been reluctant to agree to this new situation, I recognized the desire to communicate all of my thoughts with God and not Father Adam. In doing so, I slowly began building a deeper dialogue with the Heavenly Father. In my past spiritual direction sessions, I shared that God mostly spoke to me through images or song lyrics, but after maintaining an intimate dialogue with Him nightly, I started to differentiate His voice from my own.
Growing up, I was often labeled as a miracle baby after surviving my birth as a micro-preemie. This label often had me question why God had let me survive, when so many other babies do not. God prompted me with a simple alteration of my question from why me to why not me? This became a pivotal shift in my relationship with God as I was finally able to start seeing the gift that is myself. Father Adam reminded me to record these graces of insight from God as the following readings would dramatically shift my self perception.
The next set of readings focused on recognizing my sins while maintaining God’s goodness. These readings also introduced exercises including meditating on my sins year by year and a meditation in hell. While recording my sins, I opened my heart to receive God’s word in what He deemed appropriate to record. As I wrote each sin, I also added a reflection of how I acknowledged the error of my sin and the will to do better. This became a humbling process for me as I sat down and accepted the areas of my life where I had not always been the nicest person. In those moments of despair and anguish, I turned to prayer as I did not want those feelings to fester. When I started the meditation in hell exercise, I struggled to really focus on what was happening. I had spent so much time telling people I was doing this meditation, yet, I couldn’t bring myself to enter into the state of hell. I had become so emotionally drained from the prior readings that I decided to accept defeat for the night and wake up early the next morning to try the process again. Contrary to what I had expected, God spoke to me through logic and reason, rather than shame and guilt. He prepared my heart for the coming week of turmoil and pain as I sat with the decisions I had previously made and the loss of security I had once acquired. Due to my past mistakes, I started punishing myself for the choices I had made, rather than receive the forgiveness and love that was given to me. I felt as though I knew more than God and refused to accept His mercy during this trying time. As I sat in my puddle of misery, I became tired of feeling sorry for myself and opened my heart to God’s wisdom.
My child, I know it’s hard right now, but I promise you’ll be OK. I will carry you through this storm. Stop punishing yourself for these past mistakes. I forgive you, and now you just need to forgive yourself. You are a gift. Take time to fully cherish that.
By opening my heart to God’s merciful love, I was able to look past the pain I was clinging to. I finally recognized that if He didn’t want me to feel pain and sorrow, why should I? While I continued to pray through the readings, I was reassured that even in sin, I do not have to walk this path alone. God granted me peace as I started to accept the gift of forgiveness in my heart.
During my final meditation in hell, God revealed a deeper truth that I had been denying throughout this entire process. I finally allowed myself to expose how I had abused my relationship with Him by only recognizing His presence when it was convenient for me. I would call to Him when I needed forgiveness, only to neglect Him once that grace of freedom was received. God showed me how I became the very thing I despise the most…someone who temporarily uses someone else only to toss her aside after they’re through with her. Although God shared this insight, He allowed me to use this redemption as a tool for the will to not fall into sin or to abuse my relationship with Him. He showed me that it is the grace rather than the right I thought I had deserved.
Upon approaching my general confession, God showed me how I have relied on others to fulfill my desire to be loved. Their words and actions became my life rather than an addition to it and I would often neglect God in the process. This uncovered truth was a hard pill to swallow as I became comfortable with my need for validation from others. This insight spoke volumes as I finally had my general confession with Father Adam a month later. He guided me on accepting that only God can meet my needs of love and acceptance and that I have to focus on fully believing who God says I am by living out the graces of insight I had received at the beginning of this preparation.
This general confession granted me many graces. Not only did I build a deeper relationship with God, but I also discovered more about myself. Following my confession, I celebrated mass with a new feeling in my heart. I was no longer there to ask God of anything, but to merely sit and enjoy being in His presence. Although this process was not always easy, it was worth every heartache, triumph, and tear as I am now in deeper union with the Heavenly Father.