As I noted in my last sporadic entry, the announcement by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI concerning his then intended abdication provoked me–for reasons I, myself, do not yet understand–to wash my face, comb my hair, and visit Mater Ecclesiae, making amends for my negligence and disobedience of the past few months. Upon entering the confessional, my confessor priest, one with whom I have a close relationship, began to tear up, telling me in his Irish accent: “Give me a hug–I’d knew you’d be back.” After receiving absolution, I found myself apologizing to him for having let him down. Though I realize that I did not need to apologize to my priest, his loving reaction to my return really drove home to me the social dimension of sin. Pace libertarians (both of the secular and the spiritual kind), there truly is no victim-less sin. As members of the mystical body of Our Lord, one cannot indulge in sin without, in some ineffable yet significant way, affecting the rest of the Body, especially those who truly do care for your spiritual well-being. Since then, I have been back to confession twice. I mention this not to present myself as pious (simply reading my blog will disabuse anybody of that zany notion), but to admit that I am what the irrepressible John Zmirak would call a bad Catholic–one who acknowledges, and acts upon, his constant and frequent need for the sacrament of confession. (In fact, after this morning, I may need to go back again soon…)
Thus far, Lent as been good in that irritating way. Yes, a heady mixture of confession, penance, and having very little money have helped me see the many ways that I still cling to things of this world for consolation. I like to drink. (An understatement on par with calling The War Between the States the “Great Unpleasantness.”) I do so to forget, or, at least, to avoid remembering. I enjoy speedily and haphazardly purchasing books that I will not have the time to read for months because it takes my mind off of my life. Or, if I do make time to read, I use books as a prop of distraction in the same way that most other people use smart phones. I go to the corporate coffee shop (the only coffee shop in my city, really) to people watch in order to avoid thinking about my life. I go out to eat because preparing a meal at home leaves me alone with myself–and that guy takes up the entire couch, the loafer. I thoughtlessly surf Web news sites and chat rooms, indulging idle curiosity in a manner that neither edifies nor educates. I suppose that one could consider these to be little acts of avoidance with an encounter with Being. Badda Bing, Badda Being, right?
Perhaps the only consolation (not that such should be a goal, but it is) that I may experience this Lent is a better understanding of how frequently I look to things or activities for consolation, as opposed to the One Who consoles.