I love the song “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. It came out when I was in high school and I knew it first as a Christian song, then a phenomenon that even the popular radio stations were playing. It played everywhere. For months.
Haven’t heard the song? Take a listen really quickly and then come right back.
Its lyrics hit home for a lot of people, and I have always loved the honesty of asking the questions of what it will be like in Heaven. I never imagined (see what I did there?) that the story behind it was so powerfully moving.
I was placed on a list for Christian movie previews a few years back (I’m not sure how, but I love it!) and have attended some pretty great Christian movies. I’ve also watched several cheesy ones on Netflix and through Redbox. Usually, I convince Superman to watch with me, and he does so, expecting cheese, bad acting, and a contrived plot.
Not so with this film.
“I Can Only Imagine” is a true story, featuring real characters in real situations. It’s the story of a boy whose father is abusive. A young adult whose path is sure, but filled with the debris of his past. It’s the story of two men, experiencing the redemptive power of God’s love.
The characters have moments that made the packed preview audience laugh, audibly gasp, and cry. The emotions displayed on the screen are emotions we’ve all felt.
Now to the part my husband usually dislikes most: the acting. Simply put, it was stellar. Broadway’s J. Michael Finley stars as Bart Millard and the man is a vocal powerhouse. He’s funny, relatable, and (dare I say?) a bit quirky. His Bart is raised by Dennis Quaid’s Arthur. Dennis Quaid is a fine actor and this film proves no exception. Other players are Trace Adkins, Cloris Leachman, and Madeline Carroll.
You have a while before “I Can Only Imagine” comes out (March 16, 2018), but please do yourself a favor and go see it. As Christians, it’s a story that we all need to be reminded of what Jesus can do. As Catholics, the timing of the release of this redemption film, during Lent, is ideal.
It’s early now, but as we approach the release date, we’ll be rerunning this post. It really is such a good film; better than I had imagined. I hope you’ll check it out! In the meantime, head over to the movie website and explore. In the comments, we’d love to know what you think about the song, as well.
Today we are once again participating in the CWBN Sienna Sisters Blog Hop series entitled “My True Feelings about Confession.” I love confession. If you’ve been with us for a while, you already know that. If you’re new to the blog or want a refresher, check out Reconciliation: God’s Mercy Made Tangible. You may recall that Little Miss recently made her first reconciliation. Since you’ve already heard my take on this awesome sacrament, I decided to ask Little Miss to share her true feelings about confession. Spolier alert: I love that she—an innocent child—can see the beauty within this sacrament, as I do.
K: Tell me how you felt after you made your first reconciliation.
LM: I felt like the greatest person in the whole entire world, because I was free of sin. I don’t know why, I just did. It must’ve been the Holy Spirit.
K: Do you look forward to going to confession again? Why?
LM: Yes, I do. Every single time I do. Because of what I just told you—I mean, it just feels great to get all the sins out. I felt like a whole new person. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s actually really, really awesome at the same time. I think I would actually be really sad if confession didn’t exist.
K: Did you know some people are afraid to go to confession? What advice would you give to someone like that?
LM: No. Um…I’d just say…I don’t know. Um, I guess I would say not to be afraid because it’s the greatest thing in the world.
K: You keep saying that it’s “the greatest thing in the world.” Can you describe it in other ways? Like, what is confession better than?
LM: Anything…in the world, really. Except for God. I think it’s even better than his beautiful creations—except for, like, the Holy Family and angels.
K: Wow. Even better than his creations? I know you love sunrises and sunsets. Confession is better than those?
K: Let’s say you had a friend who was about to make her first confession after ten years. Let’s say she’s nervous and a little scared to go to confession. What would you tell her?
LM: I guess the same thing I’d say to someone if it was their first time making confession, except I’d try to comfort her a little more, because she’d be embarrassed about it, I think.
K: Okay…so what would you say?
LM: I think I’d just say, “There’s nothing to worry about. I felt the same way before I made my first confession, and then afterward, I felt like the greatest person ever, so take my advice. Oh, and there’s not going to be cake and punch after every time, but there will be after the first time.”
In our house, we push the ideas of forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation (see For the Love of All Things Holy about one way we push those ideas) in all things that we do. We actively practice this because Christ actively practiced it. For our family, we don’t just apologize, we ask for one another’s forgiveness and we grant it freely. There are, of course, additional conversations that coincide with that depending on the issue.
It stands to reason, then, that we make going to confession to receive God’s mercy a family affair. We love to go together, pray our penance together, and then feel “like the greatest” as a family. It resets us with God and it resets our demeanor with one another.
Especially during this penitential season of Lent, receiving the sacrament of penance is wonderful. It’s freeing, therapeutic, and helps you grow closer to the Living God. Both Little Miss and I urge you to go to confession soon.
P.S. Little Miss was nervous for this to be posted, but so excited to share her perspective with our readers. Would you share your thoughts on this post with us? Don’t forget to check out the other blog posts in the CWBN Blog Hop here.
This is a big year for us. It’s the year of sacraments. You know that Superman and I were married in October.Little Miss makes her first reconciliation tonight, and her first holy communion isn’t far behind that. I am so excited for her to be able to share in the sacrament of penance, but she’s a little bit nervous.
I think that, when it comes down to it, a lot of people feel the same way she does. She’s afraid she’s going to “mess up” confession. I keep telling her that she can’t “mess up” confession. She’s got a couple of concerns, in fact, that I think are shared by Catholics the world over.
Bless her sweet little heart—she’s seven and she’s sweet and she really is a wonderful child who is well-behaved 90% of the time. She doesn’t even have that many sins to confess, but she’s so worried that she’ll forget one.
When we get hung up on that aspect, confession is this daunting task. We fall prey to being scrupulous to the point where we analyze and dissect and re-dissect every. single. thing. that we do. Almost to the point where we expect ourselves to fail.
That’s not how this works. Confession is you telling God what he already knows. Plain and simple. It’s you recognizing that you’re imperfect and you fail. It’s realizing that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross so that your sins could be forgiven. All that’s asked of you is that you be truly sorry for the sins you commit, you confess them, and you do penance.
I keep track of what I need to confess with a list that I write out in my prayer journal. This way, I can see what sins are “repeat offenders” and I can be reflective of my actions prior to entering the confessional.
I have a friend who says, “For this and any other sin I may have forgotten to mention, I am truly sorry.” at the end of her confession. And that’s fine, too. God knows what they were. And he knows that you are truly sorry.
Sin is darkness. It just is. It separates us from the love of God. That’s how it’s explained to us in formation. That is TERRIFYING. It’s also a conscious decision. A choice. When I sin, I’m aware that I am making a choice against what’s right…and I do it anyway.
When we sin, sometimes it’s hard for us to look at ourselves. Now we’re asked to share those things with a priest?! I know that a lot of non-Catholic Christians are puzzled about this Catholic practice of confession. I’ve heard the misconception that Catholics “go through channels” when doing this, but, if you truly look at it, that’s not what it is.
Sharing our sins with a priest forces us to confess these sins out loud. God already knows my sins. Past, present, and future. It’s easy to convince myself that because God already knows it, I don’t have to say it. He knows my heart. I think that’s dangerous to my interior spiritual life. Confessing to a priest makes me confront these sins—these darknesses—in the light.
Sometimes, when praying, it’s hard to know that you’re being heard. That’s why it’s called faith, right? But if I’ve hurt someone or done something wrong and I ask for forgiveness, it is so healing to hear that someone I’ve hurt or wronged say “You’re forgiven.” When I confess my sins to a priest, it isn’t he who is forgiving me. God has already forgiven me the moment I tell him I’m sorry for them. The priest is offering me an audible sign of that which I know has already occurred.
Penance is beautiful. It is NOT a punishment.
Let me tell you a story about a fictitious girl named Shannon.
Shannon was dancing around the living room, working on her pirouettes. She was spinning and spinning, faster and faster, twirling and waving her hands. Just as her breath was beginning to necessitate a break, she lost her balance and knocked her body into the end table.
On the end table was a beautiful porcelain vase. It had been her great-great-great-grandmother Eva’s and had survived the voyage to America as she emigrated from Ireland with her family. As Shannon hit the table, it teetered and began to spin, slightly, at its base before tipping over and knocking off a chunk of the vase as it hit the floor.
Shannon’s mother, Kathleen, came running into the living room to see what had happened. Shannon was upset. Kathleen made sure that Shannon was alright. Shannon came to her and said, “Mom, I’m so sorry. I was dancing around and didn’t see that I was so close to the table.”
Kathleen embraced her daughter told her that she loved her, and asked her to be more careful in the future. Kathleen and Shannon cleaned the mess Shannon made. While doing so, Shannon noticed that there was only a chunk of the vase missing. She realized that she could very likely glue the chunk back to the vase.
Penance isn’t us cleaning up a mess we’ve made. Jesus’ death has already cleaned it for us, before we’re aware of the mess. But the sin in and of itself hurts us. It severs our relationship with God. That’s why we confess. And then, like Shannon fixed the vase, as a means of healing our relationship with God, we do penance.
It isn’t punitive. It’s healing.
Reconciliation is my favorite of all of the sacraments (although marriage is pretty great, too!) because I can do it every. single. day. if I need to, and I can heal my relationship with God when my poor choices break it and take me from Christ’s light into darkness. To me, it’s God’s love—his mercy—made tangible in a way that I can measure it. I can hear his forgiveness.
Catholic readers, how do you feel about confession? To our Protestant friends, did this help clarify the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation for you? Let us know in the comments!
Also, in your charity, please pray for Little Miss tonight!