I am chaperoning a high school trip to Rome this week. First, let me say how wonderful it is to see teenagers phoneless and agape.
The first church we visited was Santa Maria Maggiore, a 4th century basilica which contains a relic of the manger and the tomb of Bernini. Pope Francis celebrated his first papal Mass there. The basilica also makes confession available in many languages.
An English-speaking priest was not available for confession, so I braved the sacrament in Spanish. In doing so I realized something very beautiful about confessing in another language. Sins cannot be veiled in rhetoric.
English: “Father, there are times when I don’t speak well of people in front of others.”
Spanish: “Soy chismosa.” (I am a gossip.)
The simplicity required to stumble through confession in a foreign language fosters a joyful sense of culpability – culpability because the honest state of the soul must be laid bare, joy because this is the path beyond condemnation to forgiveness.