One rite of passage in my Catholic youth was going to confession for the first time.
Sister took our class over to the empty darkened church with its shadowy secrets and pools of multi-colored light. We were then told to line up outside the confessional, so many on either side of the little grouping of three doors. Father N. would then walk very seriously and very piously across the sanctuary to take his place in the middle section—sending shivers through our little 7-year-old souls. One by one, we took our turns going into the little enclosed space to wait for that screen to slide back so we could tell the priest all of the things we had done wrong.
Very, very scary…
I remember one poor girl being so freaked out by the prospect that first time that she peed all over the church floor.
As this whole ritual was repeated on a regular basis during my school years, I would find myself mentally timing how long my classmates spent in that little room. Boy, So&So must be REALLY bad.
My biggest issue was “I fought with my brothers X number of times.” Of course, I wanted to tell him that they usually started it, but that wasn’t part of the game.
You’d give your little litany of wrongs and then get absolution and penance from the priest. It was usually “Say 3 Hail Mary’s and 1 Act of Contrition.” [Nowadays, I would be hard pressed to remember the words to either of those. I'd also be tempted to add "And call me in the morning." Don't ask me why....]
It seems like such an odd practice doesn’t it? I remember the whole explanation of sin in our Baltimore Catechisms [and, why did Baltimore get a catechism named after it by the way?]. The whole breakdown of venial sins and mortal sins—complete with illustrations of milk bottles filled to certain points. When I played "Sister" in Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, her riff on all of this was my favorite part.
One of my teachers actually said that a mortal sin would be to steal $5.00 from a poor man, while stealing it from a rich man was a venial sin. Seriously? Ballsy little kid that I was, I remember blurting out “But isn’t stealing stealing no matter who you take it from?” [That was before I knew about the IRS and our tax system]
And, I have to admit that the whole idea of original sin just never worked for me. How could an innocent newborn have sin?
And now we’ve come to this.
For a mere $1.99 you can receive absolution via your iPhone. Really, I’m not shitting you. And the Church has approved it too.
Who said there are no more miracles…..
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