Many Catholics are blessed to have a priest friend. Or, even if they’re not someone you consider your friend, you still may have that priest who you look up to. You know, the one you talk to every Sunday either before or after Mass. The one who has known you for years and knows your entire family. You love his homilies, he always shows that he cares, and he holds your parish together.
You wouldn’t trade him for the world.
But, as much as we love these priests, something inside of us makes it difficult to go to them for confession. We feel uneasy at the thought of going to him for confession and would rather go to one who you have never met…preferably behind a screen, too.
I recently read a post about how going to confession to your priest actually makes him feel appreciated. I felt horrible reading it, knowing that I purposely did not go to certain priests I knew for confession; they knew I was deliberately not going to them, and it seemed to hurt them just a little bit. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices… but, I can assure you that was definitely not my intention. So, to all the priests out there who may feel a bit down that their parishioner won’t go to them for confession, here’s a little explanation for you:
Dear “Father that I know,”
I’m about to say the most cliché line of them all to you. It’s not you. It’s me. And I actually mean it. I’m the reason why I find it hard to go to you for confession.
I sincerely promise that you’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, in my eyes, you’re doing everything right. You listen to me, you bring me peace and healing, you have more patience for me than I ever have for myself and ever could have. You give me tough love and tell me it like it is, especially when I don’t want to hear it. We may even joke around from time to time. You bring an abundance of joy to my life, and I couldn’t feel more blessed to know you. And you do it not only because it’s part of the job, but because you genuinely care about me and love me. You’re a phenomenal priest, and that’s precisely why I consider you “my priest” and you will always be one of them.
But, the fact that I look up to you so much is the reason why I have difficulty telling you my sins.
Yes, I know, you’re acting “in the person of Christ” during confession…which I think is one of the beautiful things about our faith. Yet, you still hear what comes out of my mouth, and no one wants one of the people that they look up to the most to know the things they’ve done wrong. I know you will love me no matter what I do (and I love you too), but the thought of you knowing the mistakes I’ve made, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re a human being. I know you sin and go to confession as well. I know that as a priest, you’ve heard it all. But to be honest, it’s scary to me, and to others, what you may think of me when I tell you my sins. I want you to think well of me. And I’m sure you want your parishioners to think well of you, too. It’s human nature.
Please know that I promise to do my best and go to you if I can muster up the courage to do so. I know it’s something I should try to “get over” because I know it’s actually better to go to a priest who knows you and has seen you grow. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. So, I am trying. But please know, if I seem uncomfortable, it’s not you. It really is me. But please, do not take it personally. You are fantastic, always.
Your parishioner, friend, and penitent