Coming Clean

I walked out smiling, mesmerized, and rejuvenated.

To really enter into this season of Lent and prepare myself for the upcoming Easter celebration, I arrived to Church early in order to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before Mass.

As a Catholic Christian, I adhere to the teaching that God alone can forgive sins, which He does through commissioning Priests with the same call He gave to His apostles, to receive the Holy Spirit and forgive the sins of others through Him (John 20:22a-23; CCC 1439, 1485). In order to receive a renewed soul with God’s never-ending grace, I must examine my conscience, contritely confess my sins to a Priest, receive absolution, and fulfill a penance as restitution.

I try to go to confession at least a few times every year because of its importance to the maintenance and flourishing of my soul. I often get weighed down by the faults of my humanity, but God wants to give me abounding graces, so I’m going to take Him up on that as often as I can!

When I walked into Church and saw the little green light that signaled that the Priest was available for someone to enter into the confessional, my heart started beating quicker. I have been to Confession countless times and marvel at the beauty of this sacramental redemption, yet the human part of me still gets nervous when I think about admitting my failures and wrongdoings to another person. Saying them out loud. Owning them. No explanations or excuses.

I opened the door and sat across from the Priest wearing his purple garments, and began my confession. I stumbled through describing my sins, taking deep breaths as the reality of my offenses brushed past my lips and into the ears of the man sitting across from me in persona Christi (Latin for “in the person of Christ”). After finishing up, I looked into the eyes of Jesus through the Priest and saw something so extremely counter-worldly. I had just admitted the worst parts of myself, yet I deeply understood Jesus’ profound “I love you,” through the simple gaze of the Priest looking at me with the unconditional love and mercy of Christ. No judgment, no admonition. Just pure love.

Within just a few minutes of talking with me, the Priest identified and spoke to some of the most relevant struggles in my life currently. He spoke truth into my heart to counteract the lies I tell myself and the realities I find difficult to believe. God reminded me of His truth in a tangible, vocal way that I cannot possibly deny.

Heaven entered into that little room as the Priest held up his hands and Jesus wiped my soul clean.

Once again, God reminded me of His wonder in a gentle, profound, and glorious way. He knows me as an individual, and speaks to me in a way that He knows I will understand. He speaks into each of our lives in a unique way, with His breath flowing through the life around us, and His mercy reflecting through our daily interactions. He desperately wants to live in us and us in Him, and waits patiently for us to reach out to Him.

I asked, I reached, and I received. God wants to do that for you too.

In this time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, the three main facets of the Lenten season, the best way we can begin to serve the Lord is by allowing Him to wash us clean from anything that holds us back. The sins we cling to, the bad habits we don’t want to let go of, the material things that seem just too good to live without – all these hinder us from fully entering into union with Christ.

In writing this, I struggle to describe the beauty and reality of something so beyond the capabilities of our finite humanity, but my refreshed soul wants to shout out the glory of God, and wishes redemption for all souls weighed down by hurt, pain, and sin.

We are never too far gone to be saved. So long as we have breath in our lungs, we can ask God for forgiveness and receive a second, third, fourth, hundredth, and millionth chance. His love has no restrictions, and fortunately, Heaven is not bound to the limits of humanity.

When we attune to our inner desire to be in union with Christ, we no longer need the passing things of this finite world. We mess up, we make mistakes, and we sin. But we can receive God’s mercy over, and over, and over again. He’s waiting for us.

In Joy, Monica

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

1 John 1:9


Catechism of the Catholic Church (Click for link)


The Profession of Talking and Listening

I took a good step back to reflect.

Due to personal qualities that correlate strongly with a helping profession, I found myself drawn to the field of mental health and counseling. Pre-college, I had the faintest idea of what a career in this field looked like, and my many hours of online research were only slightly helpful in figuring out the differences between a counselor, therapist, behavior analyst, mental health technician, psychologist, counseling psychologist, psychiatrist, and social worker, and it all sort of started to blend together. They all seemed so similar, yet also so different!

I have now learned the distinctions between these important professions, and their varying focuses on advocacy, medicine, behavior, assessment, and personal growth. Each one follows a different route towards reaching a goal related to human wellness. Due to this variability between professions, and even more variability within each profession, there exists much nuance in the field of mental health in terms of theories, settings, diagnoses, multiculturalism, interventions, treatment strategies, and so on.

As a counselor-in-training, I often find myself overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of the things I am learning and practicing. I find my textbook material fascinating, and rousing class discussions stimulate ideas I had not previously considered. Relationships with my classmates introduce me to wider perspectives of the world, and I constantly self-reflect on my identity as both a counselor and as a client seeking my own counseling. I read, think, write, edit, re-write, re-think, and re-read so that I can gather as much knowledge and ideas as I possibly can.

I love to learn, and have been self-motivated throughout all of my schooling, but now I am even more motivated knowing that in just a few short months, this learning is going to directly impact clients sitting across from me in a counseling room. As the person walking with them towards wellness, clients will expect me to be trained and knowledgeable, and I want to be prepared. While this drives me to push myself, this mindset can be detrimental sometimes when I get bogged down by the extent of my growth in such a short amount of time and all the pressure I place on myself to meet unrealistic expectations.

While speaking with a Professor recently, he made a comment that has pervaded my thoughts ever since.

We are in the profession of talking and listening.

This one simple sentence revolutionized the way I have been feeling towards my learning. Yes, the differences in mental health professions, the varying theories, the types of treatment strategies, and the many other nuances that exist are relevant and important, but everything in this entire field boils down to two avenues of treating human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: through talking and listening. A simple idea, yet a complex follow-through.

While especially relevant to me as a future counselor, we can all benefit from this notion.

We so often become overwhelmed by all of the stimuli around us, pushing us in different directions, with the world’s varying opinions of how we should act, what we should do, and who we should be. Our personal views are beaten down by opposition, and we feel hopeless that we cannot ever know as much as we should, do as much as we should, or be as much as we should. We lose the sense of connecting with the people around us through the impact of self-centeredness, suspicion, and violence.

It can become extremely difficult to know how to navigate the world around us that contains so much complexity, but in those moments, let us remember the simple power of talking and listening. Our words make an impact, and we have a choice in how we use this power. We can lift each other up or tear each other down, and I really pray that we all choose to do the former. Arguably even more important, our simple act of listening conveys so much more than we can with our words. Really listening shows someone that we care, that we are with them in their experience, and that we want to understand them. It tells another person that they have something valuable to share, and you find them worthy of your attention. We crave this type of validation, and we can use ourselves to empower other people in this way.

Sometimes things don’t have to be quite as complicated as they seem. Like when I become overwhelmed with the magnitude of my graduate school studies, we can return to the root of our greater purpose and foster those qualities within ourselves.

Talking and listening may play different roles in each of our lives depending on our relationships, our professions, our responsibilities, and our calls in life, but they remain powerful tools that we can always return to in order to communicate, connect, and love the people around us.

In Joy, Monica

 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one.

Colossians 4:5-6