Stumbling block on my way back to the church

I have been trying to return to the Catholic Church for about the past six months and have run into a unexpected hurdle that I am trying to work out and would appreciate any feedback or criticism anyone would like to share.
My story is as follows.
I am fifty seven years old and have been married for thirty five years. My wife is not catholic and our wedding was a justice of the peace type of wedding.
I stopped attending church shortly after I was confirmed. I guess I was about fourteen at that time .With the exception of funerals and weddings, it wouldn’t be until about seven years ago that I would step foot in a church again. The void of not having that kind of relationship with the lord was ever present and had to be answered. This is when the quest to find a church would start. We would bounce around between three or four nondenominational churches for about four years, but it would always seem that something was not right for us. The continued disappointment would lead us to not attending church at all once again.
Late last summer I got curious about my catholic back ground and wondered what it would be like to attend a catholic mass after many years of being absent from Catholicism. One of the things that got my curiosity going was that I had taken notice to my wife and her recent interest in the EWTN television channel.
One day I announced to my wife that I wanted to attend a catholic mass at this particular church in town. Not being catholic , she was somewhat reluctant about the idea because she felt like she would be judged by people for not being in full understanding of the ways of the church, but she didn’t want me to attend by myself so she agreed to go.
For me it brought back many memories of my child hood years attending church with my parents and brothers and sister. It was a warm and comforting feeling. It was easy to let the Holy Spirit take hold and start working in my life once again.
As for my wife, the lord would touch her heart in a different way than she had experienced before. She definitely embraced the catholic way of worship whole heartedly.
We started attending mass weekly and it wasn’t long before we started having conversations about calling the parish office to see if we could meet with the priest that was leading the parish. My wife had heard about the RCIA program and wanted to ask some questions about the subject. I had questions of my own about where I stood in the eyes of the church after having been away for such a long time.
The priest agreed to meet with us and was very fourth coming with information to help us. My wife could start the RCIA program in the fall. I would have to start collecting documents, such as, baptism record, first communion and conformation documents. This was a fairly easy task giving the fact that the Catholic Church keeps such excellent records. After the documents were collected we met again with the priest and were told our next step would be to consecrate our marriage with the church with a short ceremony in the church at the altar. All good stuff, right? Here it comes. This is where I was told that before the ceremony would take place I would have to go to confession so I could start receiving the blessed sacrament of Holy Communion. Make no mistake about it. I whole hardly understand the importance of the sacrament of Holy Communion as this is the fundamental law of the church.
The thing here that I am having a problem with is the fact that things seem to be moving very fast and a date for the consecration of the marriage has been set, which is partly my fault I know.
Let’s talk about being led by the Holy Spirit and taking time to form a conscience. I mean I am Fifty seven years old and haven’t been to confession since I was fourteen years of age. This is practically my whole life to this point we are talking about here. Believe me, when I tell you, I haven’t exactly been a school boy, especially in my younger years. There’s some pretty ugly stuff to consider. The looming dead line has put me in a state of mind where I feel like my confession is being driven by a dead line instead of being led by the Holy Spirit. This has become a bit of a point of contention between my wife and I.
Am I wrong to feel this way?

First of all, Welcome Home!

Secondly, about confession, I can totally see how 43 years of life can be daunting as to what to confess. I’m new to being Roman Catholic, but in my previous church, I had avoided confession for 10 or 12 years and that was hard enough. When I was on my journey to the RC church, I was terrifed of confession. Absolutely didn’t want to go near it. But I knew I’d have to before my confirmation. I prayed that God would change my heart and I would WANT to go to confession.

Have you discussed your concern about confession with your priest? I’m sure he’ll understand and be able to give you some guidance.

It is natural to feel that way if you haven’t been to confession in such on long time. Trust me when I say this, it is the Spirit guiding you to confession and it doesn’t matter when you do it. You could go to confession where you want either before or after. Welcome home, and don’t think of confession as a bad thing. Instead of looking it as a dead line look at it as when you will bring all your troubles before God

My story would be somewhat likes yours as to how long it had been since I went to confession and how many things had happened over the years. Given what you and your wife have started together I would urge you to set your concerns aside and go to confession with the intent to do your best with it. The priest will help, probably more than you could ever imagine. Remember that this is an important step in the process you have started with the ultimate outcome of a full reunion with your Church. You have the added benefit of a wife who is coming with you, what a blessing. Welcome home Paul Brennan, God bless this journey.

Welcome home! And welcome to CAF. What an amazing story, and what blessings you are experiencing. It is not uncommon for people to be attacked by the Devil at just this point in their reversion or conversion. Don’t let the evil one win!

A few thoughts about your confession. Who is to say that the Holy Spirit isn’t behind giving you that shorter deadline in order to get you back into communion, eh?? :wink:

Don’t think of just doing your confession, focus on what God is going to do for you in the form of the priest. You will walk away from the confessional with such a relief, such a peace, it really cannot be explained or believed until experienced.

Yes, it hurts to go back and look at your life through the lens of sin. It will hurt you and prick your heart from here on out, especially in church when you look at the cross and realize down to your soul that YOU and YOUR sins put Jesus there. Yes, it hurts but it cleans the poison out from the inside.

You should ask your priest for help in this, and ask him to pray for you. You need more than just the normal 5-7 minutes for this, so make a separate appointment of no less than 30 minutes. 1 hour would be better if your priest allows this. You need guidance on just doing the examination of conscience.

However, if it turns out that you have forgotten something, you can always confess it later. As things have come to light in my own life, I have had to back-track and confess them, even though I know technically I might not have to, I just feel I want to be completely honest before God.

Don’t worry - the priest has heard it all, and then some. Your sins won’t shock him. That’s guaranteed. Everything you’ve done, he’s heard before.

Again, welcome home and I am thrilled for your return, and your wife’s conversion!


My story would be somewhat likes yours as to how long it had been since I went to confession and how many things had happened over the years. Given what you and your wife have started together I would urge you to set your concerns aside and go to confession with the intent to do your best with it. The priest will help, probably more than you could ever imagine. Remember that this is an important step in the process you have started with the ultimate outcome of a full reunion with your Church. You have the added benefit of a wife who is coming with you, what a blessing. Welcome home Paul Brennan, God bless this journey.

Hi Paul,

I too was “away” from the RCC when I went to college. It was 2 decades later before I truly went back to Church. Believe me, I struggled with confession. I didn’t have much external support being a private person. So most of my re-education was via the Internet and books. My marriage to a non-believer (at that time) was what got me back to the church as I wanted a marriage that is, for lack of a better phrase, “God-approved”. Previously we had the marriage registered as a civil marriage.

I just want to welcome you back to the RCC and let you know that God works in mysterious ways indeed. My wife later went thru the RCIA and is now Catholic. Indeed I am thankful that God did a wake up call for me. I was dangerously treading close to the dark side in certain things. So, remain strong and focused! Mary, the saints and the angels will help you on your journey. I truly believe they are our cheerleaders as we make our way back to the Church!

Paul don’t worry about the Priests reactions…He’s heard it all. Drugs, rape, theft, murder, porn, abortions, hatred… The Priest is there to help you. He is happy to offer God’s forgiveness for your sins. It’s very exciting for him to be a part of you coming back to the faith! Get a good confession guide to help you examine your conscience. I make a list to take into the confessional, so I don’t forget things. You have been carrying guilt for 43 years of sin. That is one heavy load, Buddy. It’s time to take it to God & leave it there. **Imagine walking out of confession, guilt free! A forgiven soul, filled with God’s grace. ** Yes! Do your penance, and off to Holy Communion a free Man!

Why do you have your foot on the brakes? Ya can’t move forward with your foot on the brakes. Is it fear? Over come it. Is it pride? slay it, and climb over it. Cowboy up! Do what ever it takes to come home to the Church! We are a family and we’ve missed you! :thumbsup:

OK, I wrote a really long post and it disappeared!

So I guess God only wants me to say this: St Luke 15:7 I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.

WELCOME HOME!!! I have only recently been received into the Catholic Church and believe me, I know how daunting those years of sin are. I had 52 years worth of some pretty egregious sins to confess and stewed about them for several weeks. When the day finally came I prayed for relief from the shame and humiliation, but when I looked up and saw Christ hanging on the cross in utterly undeserved humiliation, I changed my plea to please give me peace when I went in to confess because I fully deserved the shame and humiliation. And that is what He did for me. I went in full of shame and came out full of grace and my soul was CLEAN. Those sins are so very gone that I can’t even formulate a thought about them anymore.

Do not be afraid, Jesus does not condemn you. He wants you to be washed clean by His precious blood. I recommend you go as soon as you possibly can! :thumbsup:

When my husband and I came back to the church, he had not been to confession in probably 25 years. (He was born and raised Catholic, but left in his late teens/early adulthood. I was baptized Catholic, but my family switched to a Methodist church when I was a child). Before we had our marriage convalidated, my husband went to confession, while our priest had me wait and have my first confession as part of the RCIA process. Anyways, my husband just told the priest “Father, it’s been a long time since I’ve done this, so can you help me?”. My husband said that instead of having to try to remember and list everything himself, our priest led him through an examination of conscience and asked him a lot of the questions you typically see on the guides you can use to help prepare before going to confession. So then my husband could answer yes or no, and elaborate as necessary. I think it made it a little easier for him not to have to try to remember everything on his own. I’ll bet if you tell your priest when you sit down to have your confession that you’re nervous about it and need some guidance he will help you through it.

Your feeling is neither wrong nor right, it simply is. Similarly for your thoughts, except that you have more conscious control over your thoughts. Again, for your actions, you have yet more conscious control over your actions than you do over your thoughts.

I join with the others who have replied to you in rejoicing in your return to God’s Church and in your wife’s coming to know the Truth of God’s Church for the first time. All praise be to Him!

But now you are experiencing a difficulty, and it is not your fault, but the work of the Enemy, who wishes not only to sow seeds of doubt in your own spirit, but also seeds of contention within your relationship with your wife. See this for what it is! The Enemy is extremely subtle and far more intelligent and powerful than you. But God is more powerful than he, and gives us all manner of helps to avoid his snares.

This, then, is what you must do. Pray to your guardian angel to protect you. Pray to Saint Michael to protect you. Pray, pray, pray. I cannot too strongly recommend the Rosary, as the very best weapon against the Enemy.

Then, simply examine your conscience by the means that have been given to you. The Ten Commandments, the seven categories of sin. Pride, lust, anger, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth. Examine your life since your last confession, enumerate your sins, and go into the confessional and confess them to God through His priest. No doubt there is already in place a schedule for you, forcing you to do this on a certain day and at a certain hour. These things come from God! God Himself has arranged it so that you are scheduled to go to Confession and it is expected of you. He has thus removed from you the burden of having to decide for yourself to do it. But He allows you to be tested, and you are being tested. The devil cannot remove from you the fact that you know it is expected of you, but he can cause you to resent that and to resist it, and that is what he is doing, because that is all he can do. The Power of the Holy Spirit is the True Power of God’s Holy Catholic Church, and God has arranged everything for your benefit, including this difficulty you are experiencing and the testing you are receiving. God does not tempt, but He allows Satan to tempt you, in order to test you, and God Himself supplies you with the necessary grace to pass through the trial and benefit from having passed through.

When it comes down to it, it is Action that God is giving you to carry out, and it is in Action that you will defeat the Enemy. Actions speak louder than words, they say, and words speak louder than thoughts. When you go to confession you will put your sins into words, and God’s priest will speak to you the words of Absolution, that come from God. Your Confession, comes from God. Your doubts and difficulties are allowed by Him in order to strengthen you by means of your overcoming them and simply carrying out the Action of going to Confession on schedule. They say, “there’s nothing to it, but to do it!”

In order to obtain the necessary fortitude to carry out this Action that God has given to your will, you must pray.

As a previous poster said, it may well be the Holy Spirit who gives you the opportunity to confess at the earlier time.

It had been over 30 years since my baptism (I was baptized as a teen) and no confession since then (I was a protestant). When I was converted and went to confession I took a list of things I could remember and the priest was as nice as could be. He walked me through it and I made me feel that it was fine to confess each thing I had done.

GK Chesterton said something to the effect that he went to confession to get rid of his sins.

We all sin - the priest included. In addition to the spiritual effect, there is a very real human effect to the act of confession - it is humbling. While Catholics certainly believe it is possible to have perfect contrition for the forgiveness of sins, the normative way to be forgiven is through sacramental confession. Aside from being sure of forgiveness, sacramental confession makes us confront out weaknesses in a real and human fashion.

Look for a confessional with a screen and a priest you don’t know if that will help. The priest has heard it all…and possibly more. God already knows it. Courage, my friend! You can do it, and you will be much better for it.

Remember, don’t despair: one thief was saved. Don’t presume: one thief was condemned. In all things walk humbly before your God loving God and your neighbor, and trust in God’s mercy.

Make an appointment with the priest. Let him know you haven’t been to confession since you were young. He’ll guide you through the confession. Maybe confession, for you, is rather like a protestant having a child. If you keep putting it off until you feel like you are “ready”, you will never have a child because you will never feel “ready”. By putting you on a deadline, the Holy Spirit is telling you to trust Him, He will help you discern what needs to be confessed, and help you confess it, and you shouldn’t stress over it. Prepare, yes, but find a good examination of conscience and go over it at most the day before your confession. You don’t need to over prepare.

As a convert, my first confession was when I was 42 years old, and I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even know what an examination of conscience was when I made my first confession. Looking back, I’m not sure I would call it a “good confession” just because I didn’t know what to confess. However, I was contrite for all of my sins and God viewed it as a good confession because it was the best confession I knew to make at the time, if that makes sense.
Welcome Home!!!

Don’t worry about being judged. Sins are like garbage in two ways: 1. You should throw them away, 2. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about them. If this is your first in a long time, you can’t expect to be too scrupulous. 40 years in the confessional will only take about 6 minutes.

Although I’m usually all for being prepared, I think that at a time like this, it’s best to jump in (or you’ll find yourself testing the water for the next few years).

Please take my advice:
Ready or not, here God comes!

Dear friend

May I suggest that like a lot of things in life, the apprehension is much worse than the actual event. When my sons were learning to high dive I would tell them “the longer you stand on the diving board looking down, the scarier it seems; take a deep breath and jump in.” I understand your apprehension but your confession even after 43 years will probably not take much longer than the time it took for you to write your post and read these responses. It sounds like the Holy Spirit has down His coaching. Take a deep breath and jump in. You’ll be fine.

I hope you come back and let us know how you are doing.

Does the Parish offer a Catholics Come Home program? We have this at my church. I had only been to confession once that I could recall. I must have been14 or 15 and then never again until I started the Catholics Come Home about 19 years later. There was one man in our group that was nearly 80 and had not been to confession in over 60 years! It’s very hard for many of us to return to the sacrament of reconciliation. Especially when it had never been a regular practice for many of us in the first place. But we were given spiritual direction and help with discernment before deciding to go to confession again. Then those of us who wanted to go ahead were able to have a private time scheduled together. We did our own individual private confessions but the Priest knew that each of us were coming to confession after very long absences and that took some of the anxiety off for me.

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