Persons, places and things: Soul cleansing for Christmas


By Barb Arland-Fye


Like St. Paul, on occasion “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Romans 7:19). It happened again, during the third week of Advent. Going to confession before Christmas became a priority, provided it fit into my busy schedule (sin number 2).

I missed the communal penance service at my parish because of an event at another parish. While attending that event and expressing my desire to go to confession, someone said, “We’re having first reconciliation here. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you join them.” The puzzled looks on the faces of the children’s parents when they saw me enter the church, however, was a sign to reconsider my options.

That weekend, while attending Mass at my parish for the fourth Sunday of Advent, our pastor, Father Apo Mpanda, urged all of us in the congregation to make a confession before Christmas. A pang of guilt struck me. After Mass, I asked Father if he would hear my confession and he willingly agreed to accommodate me.


Going to confession lifted my burden, for which I thanked Father Mpanda profusely. His message must have hit a nerve. At least one other person waited outside the confessional to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

At home, I completed the first part of my penance, unaware that my resolve to avoid doing the evil I do not want would be put to the test, again, that weekend. Let’s just say this particular sin has to do with patience.

My husband Steve and I had just arrived at Deere-Wiman House in Moline, Illinois, for a holiday concert at which our son, Colin, would play the piano. The minute we saw him, he asked, anxiously, about his younger brother. “Where’s Patrick?” Colin’s anxiety, heightened by autism, caused him to obsess about his missing brother. “He told me he would be at my concert.”

We didn’t know Patrick’s whereabouts but assured Colin that we were present, hoping that would help calm his anxiety. It didn’t. I lost patience with his repetitive questions about Patrick and expressed my irritation in a curt response that Colin should be grateful that “Mom and Dad are here.”

His piano teacher, Don Estes, called out Colin’s name, signaling the start of the concert. Colin played his pieces beautifully, suppressing his distress, and returned to his seat. A pang of remorse filled me. I had been absolved of a sin pertaining to impatience less than 24 hours earlier and had already repeated it! However, God continues to provide me with reminders to avoid the evil I do not want to do and to work towards doing the good I desire to do.

After the concert, I apologized to Colin and he, as always, accepted my apology graciously. Minutes later, we received a call from Patrick, who was in Moline looking for the concert location. He mistakenly thought the concert was at 2 p.m., not 1 p.m. Although he missed the concert, Colin knew that his brother intended to be there for him, which restored his sense of well-being.

Reflecting on what transpired that day, I recognized God’s love, and grace and mercy as a Christmas gift intended to help me work toward doing the good I desire to do.

(Contact Barb Arland-Fye at

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