Readers Share Their Life-Changing Confession Stories
We asked, you responded. Readers shared so many moving stories of their experience with Confession for the Register. Here are a few of their inspiring stories.
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” said the risen Lord to his apostles. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The sacrament of Penance, instituted by Christ himself, is one of the greatest gifts of Divine Mercy, but it is widely neglected. To help rekindle a new appreciation for such a profound gift of Divine Mercy, the Register presents this special section.
Confession changes lives. There’s no doubt.
Stories came in both domestic and international, as this one from Europe. In the United Kingdom, Ed Mahony remembers the day he went to “regular” Confession in London while suffering from a “chronic, debilitating arthritis” in his lower back that was taking a physical and psychological toll on him.
When he asked the priest a general theological question, he only heard, 'Hurry up with your Confession.” Instead of the initial thought to react “furiously” Mahony thought to remain calm. He carried on with the Confession.
“Minutes later, after leaving the church, I noticed the pain in my lower back had gone,” he said. “I tested it by walking in different ways and at different speeds and then very far to check to see if the pain would return. It didn't. And, ten years later, I still haven't had it since — 95% cured. It was a physical miracle. Like something in Lourdes. Really.”
“But the real miracle, of course, was having my sins forgiven,” he emphasized.
Nor did the miracle stop there. “Now I love going to Confession,” Mahony continued. “I experience a deep spiritual joy and lightness of being. Like going on a really long, wonderful holiday.”
He believes “deep prayer to The Holy Spirit — as it deep prayer to The Father, The Son / The Blessed Trinity— and focusing on the Parable of The Prodigal Son is really important for Confession.” That means ” thinking of being like the lost son seeking the father’s forgiveness and then remembering “the great JOY of The Prodigal Son and of Confession — the JOY in Heaven when we seek forgiveness, and the JOY we receive in turn.”
Mahony reminded that “forgiving others is also essential. And that we must try and go to Confession frequently. At least once a month, and of course, always after serious sin.”
Our Lord Helps
Californian Matt Barba identified himself as a cradle Catholic whose health began to decline over 10 years ago while in his early 40's. He had to cope with one health problem after another and learn “to deal with the inability to go to work in a conventional manner.”
Then 12-13 years ago he had an experience that he stressed was “100% real, and happened while sitting in my bedroom, on a leather club chair, looking at the cross hanging on the wall.” He had been away from the Church for 20 years.
He thought, “I had ‘better’ things to do.” He also had same-sex attraction.
“And it just became too much to handle,” he said. “I got angry. I began to rant. Aloud. Looking up at the cross mounted on the wall, I began talking out loud to God. I decided I needed to vent my frustrations on the One who created me. The One who knew me better than I knew myself. I gave God an account of my state in life. I told Him about all of my various afflictions. I told Him about my feelings about being born with same-sex attraction; about how angry I was being a gay individual.”
Then a surprise. He continued, “After about 5 or 6 minutes of ranting at God, I said: ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!?’ At that very instant. In about a nanosecond after asking that question, an image appeared.”
Here, Barba stressed the importance “that I did not have an apparition. I did not get a visit from a saint or Our Lady. No one appeared. What DID happen was a still image flashed before me. This image was in color, and it was an image of priest's arms and hands, during Mass, holding a gold chalice.”
He goes on, “As a cradle Catholic who went to Mass every Sunday as a child and throughout high school, I knew very well that a Catholic who was in a state of mortal sin cannot receive the Eucharist. I tilted my head for a moment, and said to God, out loud — ‘You want me to go to Confession, don't you?’
“It was clear to me ...God answered my rant (prayer) in an instant, by using that image of a priest holding the chalice with the Eucharist to tell me that he FIRST wanted to forgive me, by going to Confession.”
Barba not gone to Confession in 25 years. “He was calling me home,” he said. “Home to the Church. Home to the sacraments (both Confession and Communion). This was the day I officially became a revert. This was the day that I started a journey back to the Church, after being away for 20 years.”
Something else that proved most beneficial for his journey happened. As he explained, “This is also the time period when I was first introduced to Mother Angelica and EWTN. Had I not had health problems I would not have been home every day, with time on my hands to surf through the channel line-up on TV. Had I not been afflicted with health problems, I may not have discovered EWTN, and I would most likely not have started a spiritual journey which has led me to reading books by doctors of the Church, modern day saints like Fulton Sheen, Thomas Merton, and others.”
Barba wanted to share his story because, as he noted, “this really happened in my life. This is a tangible experience of God's mercy (and patience). I still struggle, as does everyone, with my spirituality, faith, and life's many hardships, but I do know that God is real, and so is His mercy.”
Never Be Embarrassed
Raised a devout and active Protestant, Sue Martell converted to Catholicism at the Easter Vigil in 2019. Her cradle Catholic husband Ray and she had two children, now married adults. She made the announcement in December 2017 on their 35th wedding anniversary — her “anniversary gift to Ray.”
They were already involved in Native American ministry, and in the pro-life movement. For more than 13 years she was the nurse manager of the Christian pro-life pregnancy care clinic in their community.
As a child she had gone to Mass with her mom’s Catholic relatives — her Grandma on holidays — who were active in their faith. AS a child she was “awed by the crèche up front at Christmas” and “proud that her Great Grandpa, a German immigrant, had carved the woodwork in the church, including the communion railings.” All these left fond memories for her.
Now after entering the Church she shared the “spiritual healing” she “was blessed with on the occasion of her first Confession” in St. Hubert Parish in Langley, Washington.
Martell was the Nurse Manager of the Christian pro-life pregnancy care clinic in their community for more than thirteen years).
For her first Rite of Reconciliation she said she spent time in prayer and “asked the Holy Spirit to help me to see my sins objectively. It is so easy to ‘gloss over’ our own sinful behaviors!”
Because “some sins are really, really big — and embarrassing,” she wasn’t sure she was ready to confess the story of her internship with a clinic that promoted abortion during her time in nurse’s training — “and then my verbal assent and support of the lies about abortion ‘helping women,”’ she said.
“I had kept that secret in a hidden place in my heart from 1982 until 2007 when I was hired as the nurse manager of our local Christian pro-life pregnancy care clinic. Denial caused those memories to be pushed far below the surface. But when they occasionally emerged, they were extremely painful.”
A faithful Protestant had taught her to go to the Lord in prayer, confess sins, and then believe in faith that God has forgiven them. She did that sincerely, but added that “while believing I was forgiven, wondered why, if I was truly forgiven, did the memories remain so painful decades later? I concluded that my soul had not been restored — and clearly the restoration of souls is God’s plan as Psalm 23:3 says.”
Then came first Confession. “Although scared of ‘baring my soul,’” Martell explained, her found that pastor Father Rick Spicer put her very much at ease. He gave her absolution and a penance.
“Then the miraculous happened,” Martell exclaimed. “As the Bill Gaither song ‘He Touched Me’ says — ‘Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same.’ Since that first Rite of Reconciliation I still have the memories of my time in the abortion industry — but they are no longer painful! Such freedom! My soul has indeed been restored. I greatly appreciate this blessing from the Lord, and a good priest faithfully obedient to his calling.”
She ended with words for all: “I encourage you all to join us on the journey to a deeper faith and the restoration of your souls!”
The Right Penance
Robert Hill has never been the same since Confession 10 years ago to a priest he identifies as Canon JMM. The sin that weighed most heavily on him and one to which he “had been enslaved to” for 35 years. In the confessor’s “wisdom he decided he needed to ‘go nuclear.’”
“My penance was more reminiscent of those given many centuries ago than what one usually receives in these allegedly more enlightened days,” Hill said. “He asked me to consecrate myself to the Virgin Mary! I almost would rather have been sent to fight in the Crusades.”
But he did follow the penance. Today, he explained, “Now, far from me to minimize the foundation of grace that makes it possible to come closer to God. At the same time, however, we live in the material world; the ‘smells and bells’ make a difference. As did this memorable, multidimensional, and very efficacious penance. God is good…” Hill has now gone over 10 years without repeating that mortal sin, adding, “I pray the Rosary daily. I am still a sinner, but one very heavy chain was decisively broken. “
A Confessor’s Remark
Sr. Carol Goodson a novice with Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, left the convent at the age of 43. Then believing she was too old to try again, she resumed her former career, gradually drifting away from the Church for about 20 years.
After she retired from her job, “aware that I was finally healed,” she said, “I wanted to return to the practice of faith. Of course I had to go to Confession. While explaining to the priest where I had been for the last 20-plus years, he remarked that he thought I had made a mistake in not trying religious life again.”
She said she then couldn’t get his remark out of her mind. She continued, “I began to feel terrible despair, realizing that I had ruined my life by not doing what God really wanted me to. It got worse and worse until one night, a few months later, in tears, I begged Him: ‘Lord, I know this is impossible, but if there is any way I could still have a consecrated life, show me, and I will do whatever You want.’”
Two nights later, while at the Saturday Vigil Mass and kneeling for the Consecration, she looked down. “On the seat of the pew directly in front of me,” she said, “was a piece of paper with the words: SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH OF CONCORDIA KANSAS at the top. “Stunned, I rushed to my computer after Mass,” she said, and was “startled” to learn one of their vocation directors lived a short distance away and there was no age limit.
Today she happily reported, “I will make Vows again this coming Fall. If that priest had not made that remark during Confession — inspired by the Holy Spirit, I truly believe — I would never be where I am today — so happy and filled with joy and gratitude!”
All these stories shout for joy of the power or Confession and mercy of God. Hopefully you have your own story too.