Friday, January 14, 2011

Bless Me, Father

For a girl like me who loves to talk, making my first confession was a great revelation.  What could be better than having a captive audience who is instructed (by God no less) to give you his undivided attention?  As a seven year old, there wasn't much that could top this for me.

From the get go I opted for the "face to face" version.  For one thing, the chairs always seemed more comfortable, and it didn't require you to kneel, which was good for me since I was never one to make a quick confession.  Rather than rattling off a laundry list of sins, I preferred to add a little back story, you know, so the priest could really get a feel for the situation I had been in and judge me accordingly. 

It was also about this time that I felt I had a vocation to the nunhood.  But not the ordinary type of vocation--I felt I was destined to be an archaeologist nun, excavating the globe for lost treasures in a habit.  So, I usually liked to wrap up my session by mentioning this to the priest, and talking a little holy orders shop.  I once even kind of forced a priest to become my pen pal so we could continue this conversation (it may have been the only way he could get me out of the confessional).

So, I liked the face to face confessional, but there was one traditional confessional in my church, and I always wondered what it would be like to go in it.  At a school penance service I got my chance.  If you've never seen a confessional like this, it has three doors, with the priest sitting in the middle section, and a person on either side.  There was no line, so I walked into one side and shut the door.

I was immediately caught off guard because it was completely dark inside, and it was only about the size of a very small closet, therefore, not very comfortable.  I knelt down in front of the screen and launched into my confession.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  My last confession was at Christmas, and these are my sins."

At this point, I usually paused, during which the priest would give a sign to proceed, such as nodding his head or murmuring, "Go on" or "Yes" or something along those lines.  But when I paused this time, I got nothing by way of a response.  Assuming that the priest was probably just nodding his head behind the screen and I couldn't see him, I began to discuss my sins and shortcomings at great length. 

"You see, I didn't really mean to disturb the whole class, but it was just that upon opening my locker, my books formed a sort of avalanche and flew out with such force that I really had no choice but to scream, and---"

At this point I heard the sound of a sliding door being opened from behind the screen, and the priest brusquely cut in, "I am trying to hear someone's confession over here and I cannot concentrate with all of your talking."  With that, the door quickly slid back again, and I was left with my mouth hanging open in horror.  I had broken some unspoken rule of confessional etiquette that I had not known existed.

I was completely mortified.  And I immediately began to calculate the odds of the priest recognizing my voice and identifying me as the source of his (completely justified) annoyance.  So, I did the only thing I could do, which was to hightail it out of there as fast as I could, leaving the next poor, unsuspecting soul who entered the confessional to face the consequences.

And, of course, I went directly over to the face to face confessional where I could confess this all at length to another poor, unsuspecting priest.

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