I did it. Along with my husband, I obtained the Jubilee Year of Mercy Plenary Indulgence I wrote about in my previous column.

Last week I pointed out the rare opportunity we all have to purify our souls (and those of our departed loved ones) through the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy Plenary Indulgence.

A quick recap: If before Nov. 20, when the Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close, you obtain this indulgence, you will earn complete remission from all temporal punishment due to sin. Your soul will be cleansed. That means that should you die while still in the state of grace that the indulgence affords you, you will bypass purgatory and head straight to heaven. To obtain the indulgence you must go to confession and receive the Eucharist (within 20 days of each other), recite the Creed, pray a Hail Mary and an Our Father for the intentions of the pope, and walk through one of the two Holy Doors in the diocese (at Holy Family Cathedral or Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano).

My point in revisiting this subject is two-fold. First is to remind you to take advantage of this wonderful gift of forgiveness. But secondly, to point out the gift that the Sacrament of Penance is at all times.

I’d not been to confession for a while. Neither had my husband. We decided the special plenary indulgence was a good enough reason to get us back into the confessional. After all, who doesn’t want to go straight to heaven when the time comes? We headed to Holy Family Cathedral near Old Town Orange for the Saturday evening vigil Mass that is preceded by reconciliation.

There is something about standing in line, waiting one’s turn to confess, that is a bit unsettling; as it should be, I suppose. As people disappear one by one into the confessional, you inch your way closer to the moment you must account for your sins. As I rehearsed what I would say when it was my turn, I wondered if this was a glimpse of what it will be like waiting to enter the Kingdom of God on judgment day.

Fr. Troy Schneider, whose voice was clearly recognizable behind the confessional curtain, set the tone for reconciliation in a way that I’d not experienced before. Instead of listening and then handing down my penance, he offered calm and caring words of encouragement. After the Act of Contrition (which I was proud to recite from memory – thank you, Mom and Dad for teaching me), he told me that my sins were forgiven. Then, instead of the usual penance, he said he wanted me to sit quietly and reflect on God’s mercy and love, and to count the many blessings God has bestowed on me.

I left the confessional with a sense of peace. I felt different. Better, somehow. I sat with my husband in the second pew of the Church for Mass and sang the hymns a little louder than usual. I listened more intently.

My husband said he, too, felt uplifted, and that Father Troy’s words helped him view the world a little differently. He said he would carry that with him throughout the week ahead.

Though we went to confession to obtain the plenary indulgence with eternal life in mind, Father Troy reminded us what a gift the Sacrament of Penance can be for us in this life, as well.