Jennifer Tan Hooi Peng is a 54-year-old Catholic who found her way back to the Church eight years ago. She lives in Penang with her husband and two children but currently she is in Ipoh with her elderly family members in this Covid-19 lockdown. She shares her journey back to the Lord in a series of articles. Her earlier articles are listed below.
By Jennifer Tan
OCT 21, 2021
I never realised that receiving Holy Communion without Confession was a sin. After I became aware of it, I needed courage to restart confession with a priest and God provided His Grace. Thank you, Jesus! Praise God!
When I started my return journey to Christ sometime in July 2013, I spoke to Christ like dialoguing with a friend. When repenting, I verbally or confessed in my heart sins, asking forgiveness and strength to change my sinful ways.
I started thinking about this Sacrament after our parish priest reminded us about confession during Lent in 2016. I really hesitated as I needed to memorise the Act of Contrition from the internet or a prayer book. I was afraid that I would most likely panic and forget this prayer. I knew my greatest sin was being away from God for 29 years and had planned to confess upon resuming the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In my mind confessions took place only on Sundays with a priest. The last Sunday before Good Friday was March 20. I memorised as best as I could, and on that Sunday, there was a visiting priest. This was my last chance for the year since Lent was ending. After mass, I plucked up my courage and asked the priest for confession. Fortunately, he agreed and we sat at a church pew. I don’t remember much of my confession except mumbling about being away for 29 years and not helping a person in need because I was so nervous and my heart was pounding. Penance were prayers and an act of charity. When it was over, I just remember the great relief of having completed my first confession after so long. Thank you, Jesus!
My experience with the second confession was very different. It was later that year and during St Anne’s Novena Feast in our parish in July 2016. This time I really wanted forgiveness through a priest in formal confession without panic and fear of forgetting the words. Once again, I tried memorising and waited in the chapel. There were several priests including visiting ones, catering to various languages. There were several queues with pilgrims standing, and sitting on the floor and benches and I was not sure where to go. Then a parishioner pointed to a door. I knocked on it and entered.
Instead of formal words for confession, I started by saying it was my second time after more than 30 years. To my greatest astonishment, the priest raised both hands and said “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, Sister!” He asked if I knew how to confess. I was so very relieved to answer “No”. The priest asked me to repeat word for word, sentence by sentence, after him. When relating my sins, I started crying and somehow could not stop. I confessed how sorry I was being away from Christ for such a long time, not guiding my children to Him and the difficulties I was facing in trying to do so after the children had grown up in their late teens. My sobbing increased uncontrollably as I was truly sorry for my sins but did not know what to do. The priest comforted me with words, proceeded to advice and counsel me. My penance was scripture readings of the prodigal son, the lost coin and the lost sheep. I felt cleansed as I walked away from the confessional. Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving and healing me! Praise the Lord!
In the coming years, these scriptures became so dear to me as I had to keep reminding myself constantly. Apart from God as my Father, He became my Shepherd in a special relationship for a long time before becoming important in other roles.
Extraordinary Year and Door of Mercy
At the evening mass at St Anne’s Novena after my second confession, the priest announced that there was another way of walking through the Door Mercy at St Anne’s Minor Basilica and that it included confession.
I went through the Door of Mercy twice, once on my own and later with my daughter by praying dedicated prayers. There were limited and designated “Doors of Mercy” in Malaysia with one at St Anne’s parish. These doors opened once every 25 years for us to walk through from Dec 8, 2015 to Nov 20, 2016. The year God gave me His Grace of Courage to resume the Sacrament of Reconciliation turned out to be the Extraordinary Year of Mercy when I most truly needed God’s forgiveness for all my sins of more than 31 years. Thank you, Jesus! All Glory to God! Alleluia!
After 2016, I resumed the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often and slowly realised that after confession, my heart became lighter with increased peace and joy. I also found myself understanding God’s ways and His directions better, and felt I was receiving answers to problems faster and clearer, as blockages to discernment were removed.
Although I felt shameful confessing to a priest who knew me, I told myself I was confessing to God and not man. The priest would have passed my sins to Christ and forgotten about them.
God’s Mercy and Compassion
I hadn’t realised that I had not forgiven myself on certain sins although I had confessed to a priest until I listened to an online homily by Father Joseph Edattu VC from Divine UK Retreat Centre earlier this year. If we keep going for confession repeatedly for a sin committed long ago, it meant that total forgiveness of oneself had not occurred yet.
But this year was different as an inner voice prompted me to perform reparation to complete my act of confession of the sin which I kept confessing for the past five years. Once I made up my mind to do so, I felt at peace and unknowingly forgave myself. After seeking advice from a facilitator from the Institute of New Evangelisation, she advised me not to worry on how to make the reparations and offer this to Our Lord to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. Thank you for enlightenment, Jesus!
I did not realise that unforgiveness is a hindrance to receiving the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Tongue that I had desired for past three years despite being prayed over. I finally received in July this year. I now constantly remind myself that God’s mercy and compassion is far greater than any sins ever committed. Amen! Thank you so much, Jesus! Alleluia!
More articles by Jennifer Tan:
Being away from Christ was the greatest mistake of my life – the story of Jennifer Tan
Tears would roll down my cheeks each time I receive Holy Communion
‘Our return to Christ as husband and wife happened just as how God told me’
Discovering Christ through prayer
‘How I used the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet to Intercede for others’
Why my husband and I were drawn to attend daily masses