This is part of a series, “Scene from a memoir I haven’t written yet.”
Photo by Emilio Labrador
My First (and Second) Confession
There was a glitch somewhere along the way to my Confirmation, but I wasn’t about to let it keep me from finishing catechism if I could help it.
As a young Catholic who usually only attended church on Christmas Eve, I hadn’t noticed that half my grade had completed their First Confession one year, the other half had done it the next, and I had somehow been left behind. Who knows? I probably had forgotten to return a form.
The years went by, and my catechism class began training for our Confirmation. I hated Saturday morning catechism and wanted out. Confirmation was the way to make that happen.
Our priest mentioned that we needed to go to confession the night before the ceremony to be pure for Confirmation (assuming we wouldn’t sin during the night, I guess). I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t had my First Confession, and I was afraid I would have to stay back and repeat a year of catechism if I fessed up. I kept my mouth shut.
My older brother, who was my sponsor, drove me to the church for confession. When I told him what was going on, he insisted I had to tell the priest the truth.
I lined up for the confessional and whispered with a friend from school who lined up behind me.
“So, what do I say again when we go in there?” I asked nonchalantly. He filled me in on the secret rites.
Into the booth I went, feeling scared. The priest slid back the little door, and I jumped, startled.
“Tell me your sins, my child.”
“Uh, bless me Father, for I have sinned…. It has been, uh, three months since my last confession, and these are my sins….” I owned up to a few lies and a few dishonorings of my mother and father.
I wasn’t being cavalier. I was riddled with Catholic guilt. (I still am, and I’m not even Catholic anymore.) I was just scared about telling the truth. Well, that, and the thing about not wanting to repeat a year of catechism.
The priest gave me a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys for penance. I knelt and said them and met my brother by the car.
“So, what did he say?” my brother asked.
“What d’ya mean?”
“The priest! What did he say about it being your First Confession?”
“Uh, nothing really….”
I may have been able to lie to a priest behind a screen, but I couldn’t pull off lying to my brother to his face.
“You didn’t tell him!” He made me go back in.
Now I was really scared. I got in the back of the line, Jesus staring down at me from the cross. My friend came out and knelt for his penance and gave me a questioning look about what I was doing back in line. I shrugged, like I had no idea what was going on.
The screen slid back, louder this time. I jumped, higher this time.
“Tell me your sins, my child.”
“Uh, bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been … about five minutes since my last confession, and, well, I lied the last time I came in here.” I told it all.
He didn’t even seem that shocked.
After a few more Our Fathers and Hail Marys, I was pure at last.
Now it’s your turn! Writing prompt: Share a memory related to your religious upbringing.
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