When my family and I came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2019, we were no strangers to the overall contours of the Catholic thing. We had been High Church Anglicans, and our main obstacle was papal authority. By God’s grace, we were finally set free to live in obedience to Christ by acknowledging “the sacred primacy of the Pope and his infallible Magisterium” (Lumen Gentium, 18).
But the big doctrinal issues are one thing, and everyday living as Catholics is sometimes quite another. There are so many gifts in the Catholic Church that my family and I did not fully appreciate before we climbed aboard the barque of St. Peter. As we enjoy them now, our lives are so much richer than we could have ever imagined when we stood on the edge of the Tiber, contemplating a swim. Here are five gifts I particularly appreciate—practices that animate the lives of the mature Catholics I seek to emulate.
Going to Confession: When I came into the Church, of course I knew Confession would be a part of my life, but I did not anticipate how indispensable it would become. Believe it or not, in my previous life as an Anglican, we had something like it. Over the centuries, reconciliation rites crept back into official use among Anglicans, but only among those who wanted them. “All may, none must, some should” was the slogan. I tried it a few times, and it was a mess—self-conscious rambling that made me feel worse instead of better about my sins. In contrast, experiencing the real deal in the Catholic Church has been pure joy. There is no burden I have ever taken into the confessional that has not been completely lifted by the time I stood up to leave. There is just no feeling on earth like knowing my sin is completely dealt with—once and for all on the cross, and every time I examine my conscience and submit to Christ’s reconciling grace. If anyone is curious about Catholicism but hung up about Confession, or if any Catholics reading this have stayed away from Confession for any number of reasons, please take it from this “convert” that it is much more than a requirement. Confession is a precious balm to every soul that longs for God’s healing. The seasoned Catholics I know do it as often as they can. I want to be like them.