Friday, June 4, 2010

A Child's Eye View

Bless me Father for I have sinned. I remember the first time I went into the confessional and said those words. It was just before my First Communion, and it meant I was entering the world of adults. The real world where you got to do penance. I loved the ritual of penance. You got to go up to the alter and say so many Hail Marys and Our Fathers, and if you were really sinful, you did the Stations of the Cross. I wanted that more than anything. As I sat waiting my turn I had planned the whole thing. Walking up the isle and genuflecting at the cross point…….then deciding which way to turn, left or right in order to kneel and do penance at the alter rail. I wanted to light a candle but didn’t remember if that was part of penance or for something else. The confessional was cool and dark, and smelled of polished wood and scrubbed floors. A faint scent of incense hung in the air although none burned. I kneeled on the floor and said the words.” Bless me Father for I have sinned.” There was silence for a moment and then he spoke. “Where are you?” He was Father Joseph. I was never sure whether he was a priest or a brother, but we called him father and he was one of my favorite people. He wore long brown robes and sandals, and was in town again especially for this First Communion. Not once had he sent me away or punished me for my never ending questions. “I’m kneeling on the floor. I have to do penance.” There was silence again and I thought for sure he had left. “Get up child, you have to tell me your sins before you do penance.” Sins? What sins? I was all of maybe seven. What did I know about sins? I knew I was in big trouble. I hadn’t planned on the telling of the sins part. I guess I wasn’t paying attention in that part of class. I have never been good at lying. It was never part of my nature, but my whole shot at penance was riding on being able to come up with sins. “Well crap.” It was out before I thought. Out before I could grab the words back and try and think up something sinful. “What did you say?” I knew I had blown it. He was going to send me away and there would be no penance. “I said crap, father. I need to do penance. I have been planning this penance ever since my Mom first brought me to church. You have to let me do penance, and maybe light a candle too?” There was that blasted silence again, and a strange sort of muffled wheezing. It sounded as though father Joseph was going to pop a lung. “Well you know, saying crap to a priest could be considered a sin.” I was beside myself with joy! “Big enough to do the Stations of the Cross?” I held my breath. This was going to be it. I just might get the chance. “No little one. Why don’t you save that for some other time.” It was my turn to be silent. Maybe a bigger swear word would do it .It wasn’t going to work. I knew really big words, but no big swear words. Darn. I was doomed. “ I’ll tell you what. You say two Hail Marys and three Our Fathers, and light a candle for someone special. That will be your penance.” Yes!!!!!!! I was floating on air. I was getting penance and getting to light a candle. Every other thought left my mind. I was going up there where God could get a good look at me and know that I had arrived. Me, who had vexed the sisters into throwing her out of class. Me, who asked too many questions and could never seem to just accept, had finally arrived. My carefully planned walk down the isle was blown all to hell. I flung myself out of the confessional and ran down the isle shouting “Hey God! I made it!!! Are you ready?” Somewhere from the area of the confessional came a burst of laughter. Maybe father Joseph had popped that lung after all.
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