Father Dave takes a call from a radio listener who is wrestling with the idea of going back to confession. The caller explains that her first experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the age of 9 was a bad one, as the priest seemed to put undue pressure on her to make sure her family went to church more regularly. As she explains it, the exchange went something like this…
PRIEST: Do you go to church every Sunday?
9-YEAR-OLD: No, we don’t really go to church very often. Maybe once or twice a year.
PRIEST: Why is that?
9-YEAR-OLD: We live out in the country, my mom doesn’t drive, and my dad works…
PRIEST: Well, if you wanted to go to church, you would find a way to go to church.
9-YEAR-OLD: We live 15 miles away, so it’s not like I can walk there.
PRIEST: If you want to go to church, it’s up to you to find a way to get there. You should convince your parents to make sure they take you to church!
The caller explains that she didn’t know where to begin or how she was supposed to go about getting to church under those circumstances. Much to her chagrin, the priest to whom she was confessing did not offer any helpful advice or sympathy for her situation.
Father Dave completely understands the caller’s experience and explains that when he made his first confession, almost the exact same thing happened to him! When he was a kid and told the priest that he didn’t go to church often because his parents didn’t go, the priest replied, “You got two feet, don’t ya?” The priest’s implication that the young, wide-eyed Dave Dwyer should walk to church shocked him: “When you’re that [young], you don’t conceive of your own independent life apart from your parents!”
The caller points out that, while Father Dave evidently got over his fear of the confessional, she never has, and, as a result, has never gone to confession since that day.
Father Dave sympathizes and laments the fact that the caller had such a bad experience at such a young age, but he encourages her to go back, not only because it is a beautiful sacrament and a part of our faith, but also, as he points out, because the caller seems to be reaching out and longing to go back on her own. He also assures her that, like in the story of the Prodigal Son, “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or how ‘bad’ you’ve been. It is that embrace — throwing his arms around his son and saying, ‘Welcome home, I now celebrate that this son of mine that was lost is now found’ … That is the moment we priests are supposed to be channeling in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. … What I can only hope is that a positive and hopefully a more positive experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation can begin to balance out your earlier experience.” (Original Air 02-08-17)