I learned on facebook today that the Catholic Church has given the official seal of approval to an iPhone app on which you can track your sins, so as to have the list handy for confession.

I’m kind of jealous, honestly. Not that I even have an iPhone, but I love tracking and lists, and it seems to me that if you’re going to have the concept of regular confession, something like this is really going to be handy and useful. It seems to me like the kind of thing my home church (Episcopal) wouldn’t get around to doing, because although we technically have the concept of confession we’re much more laid back about it, at least at my particular parish.  (I expect it’s not just us, though, because of Eddie Izzard’s thoughts about confession in the Church of England.  “Forgive me, Father. I have committed many sins.” “Well, so have I! …Drink five Bloody Marys and you won’t remember.”)

To be honest, maybe it’s also partly because counter to the principle of grace unearned by works, there is still a part of me that misses Knowing the Rules.  Which is pretty darned comical coming from an ex-Wiccan, a religion in which the only universal rule is “An’ it harm none, do as you will.” (Which I have now learned is suspiciously like “Love God and do as you will,” not only in wording but also in deeper sentiment.) But there it is – I am consecrated to God, therefore I want to please him, and therefore I want a clear picture of what will please him. That bit is easier with smaller gods: you learn their favorite colors, flowers, and so on, make a little altar, offer what they like offered, and Bob is your uncle. While love sometimes develops between a god and a practitioner, it’s not uncommon for the relationship to be largely or even entirely contractual. (Devotion-oriented Pagans often complain about this, in fact, because there are so many people who treat the gods as nothing but contract workers. “I’ve never spoken to you or worshiped you, but I burned the pink candle, now give me a girlfriend.”)

It’s not like that with God. He doesn’t quite have favorite “things,” unless you count Israel. (Try to fit Israel on your home altar.)  His favorite “things” are virtues – but that means you have to understand which virtues he favors and how to correctly apply them. Except that instead of spinning my wheels thinking about it I’m supposed to be allowing the Holy Spirit to instruct me – and that’s in the parts of the “old law” that even apply to me as a Christian, which is a whole other hotbed of contention.

Yes, you would not be the first person to say I overthink this kind of thing. Neither was my priest.

Anyway – when I shared my envy of this app with a Buddhist friend, she thought it sounded depressing. And I’m not sure I can explain what’s changed for me that makes it not depressing. One of my own main sins has always been perfectionism, a particularly cruel form of pride that doesn’t even give you the fun of feeling superior.  So the realization, deep down in my soul, that no one – let alone myself – could live up to my standard, and that God knows that and still offers me grace, and that therefore it’s okay to recognize and admit where I’m weak or selfish, has been huge for me. And that, in some weird way, makes the idea of confession liberating rather than guilt-inducing.

So, there you go, Episcopal Church. Make us an app!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lina
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 02:36:31

    You know, self-recognition of faults and failings is seen as a virtue, yes? Just saying.


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