I'm tired of dancing around the issue, and I don't have a reputation to lose (which works out in this case). This will be a personal blog, so if you're not comfortable getting to know me, then please stop reading this. I'm even giving you a bunch of time to look away.
for the last 5 years I've been in a pattern of habitual sin which to use it's Victorian name would probably be: 'impurity'. Computer + Young Male + Depression - Friends = bad results. I've tried everything, even went to a Christian counselor (is that how you spell it?) for months. In the end I was told it's just a will issue.
My Protestant pastor told me that every action I did was a sin and so I shouldn't feel bad about it because I have Christ's righteousness and my works meant nothing to God. This was unsatisfying to say the least. I've subsequently learned from some Reformed guys that this is not Classic Protestantism. In Catholicism where I now dwell, both 'components' of this sin are mortal, I.E. if you do them you go to Hell. But if you ask most modern priests they'll say that after Vatican II it some how got less sinful. (don't ask me how)
So it'd been 10 days since my last confession and being in a constant state of guilt isn't the most fun place to be. So today I woke up at 5:50AM and went to the Latin Mass place to go to confession. I went through the list said the words got absolved and received advice I'd heard a thousand times from Christian speakers and websites.
I did my penance and it felt so empty, I couldn't even stay for Mass, I didn't feel like I had anything to contribute to the sacrifice and didn't feel comfortable infront of the presence. So I went home.
Within less than 12 hours I had already put myself in a state of Mortal Sin again. Now just because it's not comforting doesn't mean it's not true. As one Catholic said to me, 'just because you aren't holy now, doesn't mean holiness is impossible', and the saints are proof of that. But personally/pastorally/spiritually this sacrament with all of it's grace left me feeling nothing. Maybe this is a stupid pop-psychological/Neo-Evangelical critique of Penance but it just reminded me of Luther.
So here I sat in my room thinking "why couldn't I have died on my way home from Church...". The Catholic reading this is probably furious because it sounds like a typical Protestant critique of the Sacrament. Indeed Catholic teaching is that habit and immaturity both lessen the culpability of an act and can even remove it altogether in rare cases. So the educated Catholic would say: "no you are probably not in a state of Mortal sin". So I'm not saying Penance doesn't work, I'm just saying today, for me, it didn't seem to help.
But then I went downstairs and saw I had a package delivered to my house. My friend from Bible School mailed me a trilogy of Evelyn Waugh books and a card in latin (luckily she translated it for me) with encouragement.
Even in my sinful life I still attach theological meaning to everything, and it was such a significant existential moment I basically started to cry.
I don't understand God's grace, he gives it when he shouldn't, and even when I curse him, he still blesses me.
So I've repented and I'll confess later and the priest will probably tell me again that I just need to try harder and it's probably true, but I think gracefullness would be a much more effective tool on me at least, than moral exhortation.
Now this is where I start getting comments about sola fide and Luther and the Reformation from Protestants telling me to repent of my false religion and that this is a sign, and I get emails from Catholics telling me I've abandonned the faith by being honest and not just saying what is expected.
But I'm a person, not an ideology, and it seems that God no matter how much I ask him will not tell me which "side" is right (Protestant or Catholic). So I follow logic, Tradition, and Scripture and make my choice, and just when I think God will fit in my new theological system because he didn't fit in the old, he appears where he shouldn't. It would've made sense for me to have had an experience of grace at Confession this morning, not after I'd wilfully sinned against him. In the midst of so much theology and religion it's almost frightening when God shows up, you get so used to absence that you almost forget what His presence is like and then out of left field there he comes.
Anyway, that's why I think John Owen/Jared might be right, and I don't know how my life fits with my theology but I know that the sacraments work ex operare opero according to tradition and God's promise, but I experience God's grace sporadically and inexplicably, so I remain confused...