The first rule of confession –
you do not talk about confession.
The second rule of confession –
you don’t talk about confession.
Well, actually I can talk about the experience if not the contents. Today was my first experience with individual confession. I admit to some trepidation about starting this process. Part of the trepidation begins with the fact that confession has always been something I associate with Roman Catholics. There is nothing wrong with that except that I don’t consider myself Catholic. Media shows this as stepping into a dark claustrophobia-inducing closet, speaking to a veiled person quasi-anonymously, who then prescribes penance and sends you off to perform it.
This was not in the least the experience I had during this first confession.
First of all, it was in a wide open space. To be specific a kneeler-rail in a side chapel which has no walls separating it from the main sanctuary. No one was in the sanctuary but us, but it definitely was not claustrophobic.
Next, it was instructional. My confessor sat and explained the procedure, which is largely “follow the rubrics” as for form. He gave a suggested time frame, and set me at ease about the expectations for this first vs. future confessions. But in addition, after the formal confession he sat and discussed and probed the things I had said and a few things I hadn’t mentioned. He looked at a theme, and commented on how it seemed to run through everything I’d shared. In the end, I wasn’t ordered to do penance as much as given insight into something in myself to be more aware of and work on. Then I was absolved.
I don’t really know if Catholic confession looks like it does in the movies, but I know now that this Episcopal confession was an experience which I value, and would gladly repeat. It didn’t feel like obligation, it felt like therapy.