I Confess

Posted on December 28, 2017 under Storytelling with 2 comments

The ” sin bin”

( Originally published in 2013 )


I, along with several hundreds of millions of others, watched with interest the confession of disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong a few years ago. He admitted his transgressions of lying and cheating to the high priestess herself, Oprah Winfrey, in a highly publicized made- for- television event.  What could possibly be scarier than “telling all” in front of the world?  I’ll tell you.  It is being Catholic and preparing for the sacrament of penance … as a seven year old.

Watching disgraced athletes, politicians and business leaders confess to all sorts of nasty stuff is so common that it barely registers in the public’s psyche.  Even if you’ve cheated and lied your way to the top, it appears that a carefully orchestrated “mea culpa” is the first step to redemption, or at least a reduced jail sentence.

The nun who is conducting religion class in grade two indicates that all members of the assemblage in front of her are sinners and must repent.   First of all we must know everything about sin.  Today, a seven year old would merely Google sin and find out, in under ten seconds, that there is sin and there is serious sin.  Back then it took us a year of preparation to discover that the seeds of evil were within us and only penance could eradicate them.

We learned about examination of conscience and became familiar with the roll call of mortal and venial sins.  Mortal sins are the really bad things while venial sins are fairly minor iniquities.  To my recollection there weren’t many second graders who had the knowledge or capacity to commit a mortal sin. Then there was the matter of contrition or saying you’re sorry.

Preparing for your first confession was scary stuff. You were made to feel like you were just about the baddest kid that ever lived and that only purging your sins to a priest, in a dark box, could free you from the shackles of Satan.  We discovered that we had to tell the priest our deepest darkest secrets and, if we were truly sorry, a few Hail Mary’s gave you a clean slate for another month.

I distinctly remember first confession when we were herded like cattle being led to the slaughter and marched from the school to the church – a distance of 100 yards.  The sisters, in their starchy stiffened uniforms, one at the front and one at the back, lest we breathe, marched us into the church. Back then, even the nuns had bad habits. We sat in the hard rock pews and carefully went through the speech that we would deliver to the priest.

But what happens if you haven’t sinned since your last confession? Are you supposed to lie to the priest and tell him that you have sinned when, in fact, you have been a paragon of virtue since your last confession?  Move over, Lance.  This is really scary stuff.  Can there be anything worse than lying to a priest about lying?

As an adult I still wake up in the middle of the night with beads of sweat running down my face.  I feel guilty that I may have forgotten to tell the priest everything some fifty five years ago.

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