CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG
Sr. Miriam Heidland said she felt Jesus was going to stand over her with his hands on his hips, judging her sins.
Talks by a young nun prompted hundreds of young people to line up for Confession Dec. 29 at Catholic Christian Outreach's 25th anniversary CCO Rise Up conference.
Sister Miriam Heidland shared how Christ healed her brokenness through the fatherly love of a Catholic priest.
Of the 850 delegates, at least a third sought Reconciliation following talks by keynote speaker Heidland, a Texas-based nun of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). Fifty-five priests were on hand to hear confessions.
Heidland said she had gone to college on a volleyball scholarship and hoped to eventually work for ESPN as a broadcaster. At the age of 21, however, she was an alcoholic. She would wake up in the morning after a "crazy night" of drinking "wanting to die."
It's at that time, God sent a Catholic priest into her life, she said. "He had hope and he lived differently."
"He saw beauty in me where I saw ugliness; he saw potential and destiny in me where I was just hopeless," she said. She saw Christ in the priest and through him she was able to encounter Jesus herself and eventually become his bride in consecrated life.
"I love priests," she said. "The power of their 'Yes!' is so potent it changes people's destinies."
Heidland said she was born to two high school students who gave her up for adoption. She bore a wound, wondering why her natural parents didn't want her. At 11 she had her "innocence stolen," at 12 she started drinking and at 13 had her "innocence stolen completely."
We project our own brokenness and bad relationships onto God, she said. We may see God as a tyrant or as someone manipulative who does not genuinely care about us.
She feared "Jesus was going to come to me with his hands on his hips and judge me and condemn me more than the shame I already felt."
"He has never done that," she said. "He comes and sits beside me in all my brokenness."
We must have a willingness to be reconciled and a willingness to repent, to turn away from what we are doing, she said. Some say they are sorry but keep on doing what they were doing. "We have to at least try."
Heidland said we must also forgive those who have hurt us. She felt gripped with hatred for someone who she felt had destroyed her life.
Yet who was suffering? She was, not the person who victimized her.
"I had a mistaken idea about forgiveness that if I forgave you, what you did didn't matter," she said. "It totally matters. What happened matters. Our pain matters. God sees that. It makes his heart ache. He wants to set us free. He wants us to come home."
Until she met the priest who changed her life, she went to church on Sunday and found it boring. She did not know what happened in the Eucharist; she did not know what happened in Confession.
"The person you meet in Confession is the Lord Jesus Christ," she said.
Heidland joked she thought that her sins were so shocking they would cause the priest to have a heart attack when she went to Confession.
Priests have to go to Confession, too, she said. All of us struggle with something, whether it is anger, control, fear, pornography, masturbation, same-sex attraction, sex with people we're not married to.
"Jesus is not afraid of any of that," she said. "He doesn't kick the door of our heart in. He knocks; he doesn't go away; He keeps trying" to get us to invite him inside.