Mary Walker wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been desperately searching for a way to return to the Catholic Church for some time.

I was divorced and then remarried outside the Church. My husband died two years ago after 57 years of marriage and three children.

I know I have to go to Confession but it terrifies me. So much has changed and I feel so lost. I receive lots of material about the Catholic religion but they all ask for money. I feel I need someone to help me step by step . . . someone I would feel comfortable with. My biggest fear is going to Confession. Not that I have been such a bad person but I just freeze up at the thought of it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Mary

  { Do you have advice for someone who's seriously been searching for a way to return to the Church? }

Eric replied:

Dear Mary,

First of all, welcome back! It is so wonderful to hear that you want to be a part of the Church again.

  • So why is Confession so terrifying for you?
  • What are you specifically afraid of?
  • Are you afraid that the priest is going to be hard on you? (I don't think that will happen.)
  • Are you embarrassed?
  • Are you afraid of a harsh penance? (Also unlikely.)
  • Do you have bad memories of Confession or did you have a bad experience before you stopped practicing?

You say you feel lost.

  • Do you just need instructions on how to approach the sacrament and what to do and say?

You can always ask the priest for help, to guide you through it.

  • What ideas and words come to mind when you think of Confession?
  • Have you started to go to Mass again (without receiving Communion)?

Maybe if you feel disoriented, familiarizing yourself with the new liturgy for a while, might help you get your bearings and give you the strength to go to Confession.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the tribunal of Mercy, not a tribunal of judgment. It's a place where we receive grace and healing; it's like going to the doctor. OK, sure, during the process of the doctor curing us, it may sting briefly, but in the end, it brings healing, relief, and peace. The same is true in the spiritual life. Often it's like a weight off your shoulders.

The Lord loves you very deeply and is eager to unite himself again with you in Holy Communion. He wants to be reconciled with you and is waiting for you to ask for and receive his mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation. He wants to welcome you back with open arms and wants to take that weight off your shoulder.

Think about what it is that you fear in Confession and get back to us, and perhaps we can help you work through it.

Eric

John replied:

Mary,

I need a little clarification regarding your marriage situation.

  • Which husband died?
  • The first or the second?

I'm not a canon lawyer or a priest, but here is my take.

  • If it's the first, you're free to remarry, so I don't believe an annulment would be needed to bless the current marriage in the Church even though he was alive at the time you remarried.

If your second husband died, then you're no longer living in the technical state of adultery.

In either case you are correct, you need to go to Confession and certainly need to discuss this with a priest. As for your fears, let me simply say, that any priest worth his onions, will greet you with a warm welcome and help you through whatever is necessary to make things right.

If your second husband is living, and your prior husband is dead, you'll need to go to Confession and get your second marriage blessed in the Church. That's providing that your second husband doesn't have a prior wife, in which case, he would need an annulment or at least have his first marriage looked at but, as I said, you need to discuss all this with a priest.

I understand your fears but once you actually start your Confession, the fear will leave. Place your faith in Christ who loves you unconditionally.

I have many friends that are priests and they all say, one of the most rewarding things for them is to hear the Confession of someone returning to the Church. It will thrill him, that God has chosen him to be His instrument of reconciliation. A priest is like a doctor. He is there to cure and treat spiritual illness. Just as doctor is always thrilled to help a patient get well, so to a priest will have the same reaction.

I went 20 years without going to Confession. I feared it too and I was drug addict and drug dealer who committed every crime in the book, short of murder but the moment I started my Confession, the weight just lifted off my shoulders and the fear disappeared.

So what it's going to take on your part is a leap of faith. That's a leap that can only happen by grace so look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Get your eyes off yourself and put them on Him.

We will be praying for you.

Under His Mercy,

John

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