Father Vincent Kelber, O.P. baptizing my daughter Mackenna into the Church. Queen on the Most Holy Rosary Parish, Portland Oregon, 2017.
When I see this picture, I always look first to Father Vincent's face. The expression contained there is all that needs to be said. As he pours the life giving water over my seven year old daughters head, what goes through his mind? Is he thinking that in that moment, he is forever joining this little child to Christ's body, that this is a mark that will carry her to eternity? Is he thinking that he is washing away all stain of original sin, that he is literally Jesus' hands taking this little girl for Himself...claiming her soul for His Divine Love?
While I can imagine what goes through his mind as I look at this picture, I know one thing for sure. That I will be forever grateful to this most holy man for what he has done in my life.
He was the priest to hear my general confession, going back over the last 20 years of my life, he made me feel so loved in the sacrament of reconciliation. I truly felt the mercy of Jesus, not once even an inkling of condemnation. The compassion he showed to me was great, however he did not downplay what I had done and he allowed me to grieve the loss of my innocence. He permitted me to feel the shame and regret over my sins....By his reaction to the words I spoke, I fully grasped the severity of what I had done and at the same time, became aware that I was forgiven and deeply loved. Those words he spoke were powerful....
"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit....."
Something supernatural had taken place. I felt the weight of the grievous sins of my past leave me. There was a sense, a real physical sense that my very existence had changed. God had used His priest to take my sins away from me. To absolve means to "set or declare someone free from blame, guilt, or responsibility." Yes, I truly felt that reality on this day.
Jesus knew that we would need to hear those words, actually said, by an ACTUAL human voice. That's why He, in His wisdom, instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. I'm telling you, if you're not Catholic, and have never confessed to a priest, you don't know what you're missing! To HEAR those words, from an audible voice, knowing that this man stands in 'Persona Christi', in the very person of Christ, it is powerful. When protestants ask me "Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?", I can usually detect some pride in the tone of voice used, my answer is simple! "Because Jesus wants us to!, Because Jesus knows we need to HEAR THE WORDS." If you can humble yourself enough to confess your sins to a priest, and do it thoroughly and with contrition, I promise you, you will be on the road to heaven. You will be on your way to becoming a saint.
Only through the Catholic Church do we have the supernatural benefits of the absolution from sins. Does Jesus forgive you if you ask Him and really mean it? Of course He does, but He doesn't just leave us there! He takes it a step further and allows us the comfort of hearing....THE...WORDS. Jesus absolves through this sacrament. It is His divine prerogative to do so. He wills it for our good and we should be obedient.
Whatever you've done, however grievous or horrendous the sins you've committed.....BE NOT AFRAID! Come to Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation! No matter what you've done, no matter how long you've been away, Come to Him! You will find in Him, through his priests, the loving embrace of the father who has waited so long for the return of His son.
If you're not Catholic, and this sounds like something you want, go to your local Catholic parish and ask about joining the Church. Don't wait any longer. Come find the peace you so desperately seek.
Looking again at that picture of Father Vincent with my daughter, I'm struck by so many emotions. So much gratitude for the sacrifice our priests make with their lives. They give everything to God and to His people. For this reason, we Catholics love and cherish our priests.
It is through their hands that the Bread of Life transforms us, it is through their voices that God takes away our sins and it is through their example that we can know the way to heaven.
May God bless you and His Mother protect you.