As someone who struggles scrupulosity, the Sacrament of Confession is terrifying to me. The problem is not that I’m afraid of sharing my deepest sins. No, the problem is that I play so many mind games that sometimes I don’t even know what is a sin in the first place. It’s scary to me to enter the confessional knowing that I might confess something that isn’t a sin. Likewise, my scrupulosity makes me fear that knowing I’m scrupulous will lead me to being laxer and dismissing some things that actually were sins. It sounds ridiculous, but welcome to my circular reasoning.
But throughout the struggle with scrupulosity, I’ve learned to cast myself into the merciful arms of Jesus anyway, even if my spiraling brain doesn’t perceive Him as merciful. I’ve also learned that it gets harder when I’ve been away from confession for longer than a month. My rule is to receive God’s mercy in the confessional at least once a month, and by the goodness of God I’ve been able to stick to that mostly.
Recently, however, it had been over a month since my last confession and I could feel it in my soul. I felt increasingly sick and attachments to sins were harder to break. Not only that, but the thought of going to confession made me increasingly fearful and sick to my stomach. I knew then that I needed to go.
And yet, I’m human, so I kept putting it off. We returned to campus after break, and I knew I would have an opportunity on Tuesday at the Grotto to go to confession. But then I learned Fr. Todd was coming sooner on Friday, so I resolved to go then.
As someone who also mildly struggles with anxiety, I woke up before my alarm Friday morning with a feeling of anxiety such that it was hard to take in a deep breath. As I sat in the Grotto chapel to do my morning prayer, my heart was racing as I anticipated going to confession 8 hours later. I didn’t want to have to deal with anxiety for 8 hours, so I threw myself before the Lord and asked Him to help me with that anxiety. He told me, "Theresa, you are safe. And I do not want you to start your examination of conscience until you are in Christ Chapel before confession." My anxiety, I think, often arises because I am afraid of being underprepared for things. I tell myself there’s no need to be afraid so soon, but then I think, “What if I need to start preparing early in order to make a good confession?”
All this to say that Jesus told me specifically two things: He will give me the grace of making a good confession, and I don’t need to prepare until right before.
The rest of the day I was not anxious until I was in Christ Chapel doing my examination. I turned to Jesus, and He reminded me that He will give me the grace of making a good confession. He also said to me, “When you woke up anxious this morning, I was rejoicing for today is the day you are made clean again.” He told me that all He saw was the moment I stepped out of the confessional with a smile on my face and not a stain left on me. He told me that it was my day; that on that day all of heaven rejoiced, for a sinner repented.
When I was done confessing, Fr. Todd said, “You can thank God for a good confession,” and after I was absolved, I walked out with a smile on my face and not a stain left on me.