[This is a guest post from Norine Shaivitz.]
Ten years ago today, I opened the newspaper and saw the story I had very briefly covered the day before took a turn I wasn’t expecting. Back then, I was a news anchor at a radio station and the day before had been busy. The few reporters we had were off covering other stories when I got notice someone had been killed in a jet ski crash on Lake Travis.
I made some phone calls and got the preliminary story, but news reporters at the scene were able to find out an important detail I couldn’t by phone: The man who had been killed in the crash was a Catholic priest. Father Todd Reitmeyer was a priest serving in South Dakota and he was in Texas visiting family. My heart ached for this loss. When you are a Catholic, every priest is your father. So, I lost a father too.
My small newsroom couldn’t send a reporter to the funeral. I covered it remotely and found out the homily for the funeral Mass in Buda would be posted online. In that recording, I listened as a priest told the story of Father Todd, a man who decided to live his life always ready to die in a state of grace. Father Todd had said death could come suddenly, so it was important that he go to confession. He went at least once a week, sometimes more often. He wanted to go straight to Heaven.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 – For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.
In Catholic theology, friends of Jesus don’t always go straight to Heaven. Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing unclean will enter.” So if you are a friend of Jesus and there is a sin on your soul, we believe purgatory is the place to get cleaned up before the “wedding supper (Revelation 19:7).” Father Todd wanted to skip purgatory and go straight to the party. He was living his entire life for Heaven. In fact, he had been to confession the day before he went out on Lake Travis, “just in case” something happened to him.
That next Lent, I made the effort to examine my conscience and go to confession once a week. At that time, I was aware that Catholics are required to make at least a yearly confession. But going once a week made me realize something: I sin. I sin a lot. There was not a week during which I had nothing to confess. When you don’t go to confession as often, you aren’t very accountable. You hardly notice that you sin. When you confess often, you realize you sin a lot.
Proverbs 24:16 – Though the just fall seven times, they rise again.
To find out you are a frequent sinner is actually not as depressing as it sounds. It’s actually joyful. Jesus wants me to be good, but goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I can’t be good without God. I have no salvation without Him. I can’t have a Savior if I don’t know I need Him.
Frequent confession also taught me about the battle against sin in my life. I am frequently confessing the same things. So, the question becomes: why? I have since learned that there are patterns of sin because of emotional wounds from my past. The Lord has healed me in many of those areas because I became aware of them and asked Him for help. That is an enormous blessing. I have a greater amount of peace and a great desire for Heaven.
I never expected to have my faith life impacted while sitting under a bank of police scanners in a secular newsroom, but what was said of Father Todd ten years ago changed the way I live my life. Father Todd made a regular confession so he would always be ready for Heaven, the wedding feast. He was in the world, but not of this world (John 17:16). That is how I want to live my life too, ready at any moment to meet the Bridegroom.
Matthew 25:6-13 – At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.