My Holiest Moments

I’m coming clean.

The guilt of a couple of things just needs to be shed.   This may be easier said than done.  After all I do have the curse of being Irish Catholic Middle Child Oldest Daughter Guilt Syndrome.

I know that religion is very important.  I happen to love and admire the beautiful traditions of religion.  Not just mine, but many.  As an adult I can look at many different traditions and appreciate the significance, the meaning, the respect shown towards God through traditions and ceremony.

However.

I did not always quite get it.

I’m not really claiming to get all of  it now.

But I do get that I did some things that I probably ought to fess up about.

Some are pretty innocent.  Baptism?  I don’t remember it at all.  I am pretty sure that I don’t have to.   As I got older there were other ways I could begin to participate in and be a part of the church.

First Communion.  I do remember it.  In an odd way.  I remember the pomp and circumstance of it.  I remember getting pictures taken.  I remember the white dress and the flowers braided in to my hair.

See:

Mom.  Me.  The Virgin Mary.  I now have this very same Virgin Mary at my house.  I like that she was there, and now she is here, still.

I remember all of my classmates lining up.  Every one wearing white.  It was a big “to do”.  We had a very big dinner at home afterwards.  In the dining room! The fanciest room of the house.   I do not remember the church part though.  It’s gone.  I’m sorry.   I am sure it had to do with all of the excitement of being the center of attention in church.  I remember making mom mad because I kept asking all through this huge dinner just for me, if I could go next door to the neighbors.  I remember the dinner but I don’t remember why I wanted to go to the neighbors.  So dinner seems to trump first communion, and the neighbors.

Then comes time for confession.  A little bit older.  A lot less wiser.

We belonged to a very large church.  Large in congregation and large in physical structure.  I don’t remember all of the preparation that went it to preparing for this.   I don’t have great recall on the religion classes (but fondly remember the teacher!).  I don’t remember how much we did to get ready for this.  But I do remember the very first confession I did.  The basic set up for our first confession was that we go in to church, sit with our classmates until it is our turn.  Then, you are on your very own.   You go in to a dark little cubicle.  You have to tell a priest all of your sins.  If you’re lucky, he forgives you.

I was scared to death.

I have no idea why I was so scared.  I must have thought I was a rotten little poop,  to be so scared.  But I was scared.  I kept asking questions of anyone who didn’t look to be deep in prayer.  I thought I was going to cry.  I got up and stood in line.  I sat back down, that wasn’t good enough, I kneeled on the kneeler.   I can not convey to you how terrified I was.

A nun approached me.

She asked me if I had confessed.

I said yes.

What the hell!  The word came out before I could stop it, before I thought about it, before I realized that hell is surely where I was heading.  I am a rotten little poop, worse, I. Am. A. Pig.

I was trying so hard not to cry.  She smiled and moved on.

There were two or three nuns circulating about.

I just wanted to sob.  My chest hurt.

I don’t know how long I knelt there.  Hands clenched.  Staring.  What am I going to do?  Finally, after full mental flagellation I got up and stood in the shortening line closest to where I was.  I stood there wondering if I was going to pee my pants I was soooooooo scared.

The very same nun approached me and said “Colleen, I thought you already confessed.”

Mind you I am not quick thinking.  Quick witted.  And wasn’t skilled at lying.  Out of my mouth flew “I just wanted to do it again.”

Again, she smiled, and moved on.

Lord have mercy.

I am having heart palpitations writing about this it is bringing that very real fear back to me.

I made my confession.  “Again.”

And I did not tell the priest about my horrible lie.  So I sinned again by omission.  

I left church that day with a dozen new black marks on my soul.  I am not proud of this moment.  But, sadly, it is true.

Then there was confirmation.  Again there was mighty preparation put in to this.  I had to, had to, get this right.

I was clueless.

How am I suppose to pick a saint to emulate?  I didn’t even know what ’emulate’ meant.  I had no idea how to find a saint’s name.  And I had to find a sponsor.  This was too much pressure.  If the church wants me to emulate a saint shouldn’t I know what emulate means?  And if they want me to be like someone can’t they just tell me who to be like?  Now, today, I think I would argue that we should all just pick “Jesus” as our confirmation name.  Who better to emulate?  Anyway, I had no clue what I was doing.  I think I was delayed.  I still think I am delayed.

Not to mention I had a huge family.  Who am I going to pick to be a sponsor?

So to be fair I came up with a brilliant idea.  I would pick a “saint’s name” after an aunt on one side, and pick a sponsor from the aunt’s on the other side.

And that is exactly what I did.

My confirmation did not redeem me at all.

Not even a little bit.

I obviously picked well.   During the confirmation ceremony we were suppose to be “slapped” by the bishop.  Well that was a tradition that was over ruled.  We were told he would shake our hands.  But I am pretty sure I was convinced I was going to get slapped.   I don’t remember much of this service either.  Just the most important part.  The bishop did not slap me.  He barely touched my hand as he “shook it”.  He probably couldn’t stand the thought of touching my sinner’s hand.

But when I returned to my seat in the pew (someone really needs to rename those) my aunt was seated right behind me in her place of honor as my sponsor.  As I sat back, she leaned forward and said “do you feel any holier?”

What?!   This was suppose to make me feel holier?

Fail.

Again.

I suspect that God has known this all along.  And I suspect that He forgives me.

My holiest moments.   Laid before you.  Bared.

92 thoughts on “My Holiest Moments

  1. Beautifully written.

    I went through all this…as a boy.
    If we could go back in time and say…No way!

    As a footnote

    I am a grandfather and my grandson sometimes says No way!
    He’s in his Terrible Two phase…so they say…

    I know that I have to respect his feelings.

    Way to go Theo!

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  2. I think that I’m going to have to be sorry, later. I am just sitting hear laughing loudly and heartily at 7:00 a.m. I consider that you might not be wanting me to laugh, and I am anyway.

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  3. I am not religious, but I think I understand your feelings through what you have written and why. You are a GOOD person, a kind, considerate, caring and loving person..what ever you may have done ..if God doesn’t forgive ..I surely have. Huggles xx

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  4. I recall bits and pieces of receiving these two sacraments. I remember my communion but not my confirmation. It felt good this morning to read your post and realize we weren’t well educated were we? Why was it we blindly followed even as we didn’t understand emulate? The sin of omission, Colleen? Naughty. Naughty. Sorry, for laughing but it’s WITH you not at.
    😀 😀 😀

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  5. Precious post, Colleen, my fellow child of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Oh, the perils of confession. I think I was a good 8-year-old, so should I make something up? Does the priest care if I stayed up five minutes late? And communion. Do not let the wafer touch your teeth, for it is the body of Christ!! And confirmation. This is so important we have to make sure what you agreed to at communion is still true, with your closest non-mom-and-dad adults standing behind you to make sure you’re not lying because now you’re big enough to know.

    Why, oh, why, did they scare us so, my friend?

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  6. Colleen, I have a confession to make, I started reading this without my glasses, and the title threw me for a major loop, made post this a MUST READ!!! NOW !!! — I read the title to be “My Hotest Moments.” LMBO I really am a pig LOL. But I will have you know I immediately got my reading glasses, and set myself straight. Being a Southern Baptist at the time I have similar recollections of my Baptism as you do of your First Communion, with all the pomp and circumstance the Baptists could throw at it (I was baptized in a creek in a long white flowing robe, with the choir singing in the background). I suspect as 1st communions go, yours was probably okay in the grand scheme of things. As a Baptist we never had the opportunity to confess, we were condemned each week. Confession sounds easier than it is I suspect. And while you may have wanted to do it twice, I am pretty sure God, heard the words you didn’t say as much as the priest heard the words you did say. I am no rocket scientist, but I suspect you have secured a place in heaven. — Take care, Bill

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    • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! My hottest moments would bore you to tears Bill!!!! But I had to laugh at you thinking that’s what I would write. Maybe I will!!!! 🙂

      I do believe God hears my apologies, and my thanks.

      I truly scared myself with religion because I didn’t ask questions.

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      • Colleen, I can say in complete honesty that there is nothing you could write that would bore me. But in my defense I said I didn’t have my readers on. Laughing trust me it’s a mistake I won’t make twice. Take care, Bill

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        • Hahahahaha! Trust me….I have some boring words. I’ve actually been going back and trying to reduce the bulk of my blog inventory by unpublishing some of the previous and oh so old posts.

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          • Colleen, LMBO, you have inventory, you have inventory that has reached it expriation date ??? How can that be ??? Hell I am still trying to build inventory. LOL if I unpublished all my crappy stuf I would be back to 30 or 40 good stories left at best LOL. Trust me I am going to keep padding my numbers LOL. Take care, Bill.

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  7. I was raised a Presbyterian. I quit going to church when I was a teen. I quit going because the Sunday school teacher unknowingly scared the crap out of me. Being such a shy, literal, little girl, I was petrified when she told us that we had to let Jesus into out hearts. I sat there in my chair–I can remember every detail of the room–and my mind freaked out. How was Jesus going to get into my heart? Was he going to cut me open? Would it hurt?

    Nowadays, I have my Faith, and my church is outside–where I feel closest to God.

    And, I have no sins to confess to. 😉

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    • I am so grateful for my faith. I need it. I use it. I rely on it.

      And my heart just chuckles with a shake of the head as I think of that poor little girl sitting there totally freaked out!!!!

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  8. I have learned too often that i have to be careful what I say when it comes to other people’s religions. I was born Jewish but feel that I have no religion at all but always feel that love is more important than religion. Maybe that makes you feel better. I hope so because it seems like it also makes a lot of people really pissed off.

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  9. This was a very interesting read. Although I know that Catholic ways are much different than most protestant churches, this gave even more details of those differences. Most of us (if not all) lie as children and in a church setting, lying is a near relative to death. It can be terrifying, but we must be able to forgive ourselves too.

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    • Interesting you say that about forgiving ourselves. I spent a very long time with someone last night who I wish could forgive themselves. It is important to be able to do that. We aren’t perfect, not a one of us.

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  10. This post is beautifully written from the heart. I feel your anxiety and confusion. You suffered needlessly by being born a Catholic. My experience is that they thrive on making all their followers feel guilty, inadequate and tainted. Forgive yourself for feeling anything other than the best person you can be. Love to you from Jenna

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    • Thank you Jenna. Though I feel bad, I didn’t mean this to reflect on the church. This was just a look back on “my” experiences. Kind of a laugh at myself few moments. I will freely admit I didn’t get much of what was going on. But that was more due to the kind of kid I was, pretty timid, I had no reason to fear asking questions of my teachers, it was just who I was. I do think the church has a history of making people feel guilty, no denying that! But I have to say, what I see now and experience now is a much greater sense of love and acceptance. Though I don’t go to church now it is not because of the church. It’s my own reasons not based in the church, but in me.

      Thanks for the love and support. 🙂

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  11. Oh Coleen you would fit right in over here. I was reared a Catholic, but I must admit none of the guilt ever got to me, not like it did to everyone I know.
    I have great friends who would be lost without the tradition and habit that is the church. Personally… No it doesn’t do it for me.

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    • 🙂 You know you’re my favorite for saying I belong over there, right? 🙂 I can’t hold the church responsible for all of the guilt, maybe some of it. But Tric I didn’t even get most of what was being taught so I can’t blame them for that 😉

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  12. I am agnostic, but when I start to ponder if Christianity is “real” I do it from the point of view of my Catholic upbringing. I have issues with some of the Church’s views, but the tradition of Mass is comforting at times because of the rituals involved.

    Great post, CM!

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  13. Well written, CM. Bravo! You brought back my own memories of first communion, first confession, and confirmation. I understand why the Catholic church wants to indoctrinate people as early as possible (that old saying attributed to the Jesuits, “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man” immediately comes to mind), but it seems to me some folks might be better Catholics if they’d been allowed to learn and do these things when they were older and understood what they were doing. Confirmation, for instance. I really didn’t understand what it meant. Instead of deepening my faith, I went through it because my father insisted, and never went to church again except for weddings, a baptism or two, and funerals.

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    • I do appreciate the parenting and church education I see today. There seems to be more discussion and opportunity to learn and understand better. And maybe it’s because the parents of today remember the not understanding when they were that age. Whatever the reason…having a better understanding, even if it means waiting until you’re older, sure makes for stronger churches (in my opinion). 🙂

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  14. Forgiving oneself, is part of knowing God. You were young, God knew your hear! He loves you always, Colleen! I believe He sees into our hearts, never got the whole idea of confession. Either we are guilty and not sad or remorseful, or we are guilty of things and filled with our personal conscience. God is everywhere! I feel that people who try to define God are missing the point, Colleen!

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  15. Colleen, you know me … this with religion isn’t my strong side even if I have option about it.
    What I can’t understand is that we can nearly do a lot of bad things .. then it’s only to confess and everything is forgotten.
    So Colleen, I think you have been forgiven and it’s all forgotten – and it also made you wiser.
    Thanks for the big afternoon smile – so funny …
    I was so bright in school when it was about religion and I was flying through the confirmation.
    It was all down to my teacher that made it so interesting. I read the Old Testament as short stories and I really enjoyed them.
    My teacher even asked me if I was considering theological education and look at me today.
    When the teacher asked my that question .. was my holiest moment. *smile

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  16. I suspect that most children have similar experiences. Thankfully, as an adult, you can talk to a priest (not an old-school nun) and find out what the rules really are. I suspect they are not nearly as stringent as previously thought.

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  17. I must confess I really don’t know what to write. I’ve HEARD of those terms before but never learned their meanings nor significance… but it sure appears you have a good soul because of how you feel. We know you’re a good soul.

    But one thing I do feel…I am tired of religious wars… and I am tired of religion dividing up our country into several pieces…and again, I don’t understand why. Don’t get me wrong. I do not condone jihad, for example. But for the vast, vast majority of peaceful folks, I cannot fathom why it has to be so.

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    • Like you, I don’t understand the hate and wars erupting from what people claim as a religion. I’m not very well educated in such matters, but I am educated enough to know that hate and war do not create peace.

      Or love.

      And thank you, I hope my soul is not too tarnished.

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  18. I smiled a lot at this one. I could picture the whole scene, especially with the nun. I bet she knew, but didn’t want to say anything on the second go. Kids are kids and it sounds like it was very intimidating at the time. This story is lovely, honest, innocent, and all round filled with a loving patience and humility–perfect. 🙂
    I would call myself more agnostic I guess now? But I do remember those rituals; they could be intimidating.
    Long ago, my father explained to me God would never burn a saintly Buddhist. It is more important that you are kind, a good person, and treat others well.
    Collen, from what I have read, you are kind, a good person, and treat others well. I am certain you are right and everything is fine. My father also told me God has a great sense of humor–He gave it to us after all. I think it is wonderful that this provoked not only deep thought about innocence, forgiveness, and religion, it also made so many smile fondly at the whole thing while reflecting. That is a gift. 🙂

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    • I love what your father said.

      I’m sure I do have my negative moments, for which I try to be more aware. I hope that my attempts at being good and kind (because I think it is a better way to live!) help. The older I get the less “right” I want to be and the more kindness seems to be more important.

      I’m glad this did produce smiles, it was meant to. I am surprised at the amount of different thoughts it has prompted.

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  19. Get this! I’m visiting my parents on the other side of the country just now, and when I walked into their house, guess what I found? The book Saints Behaving Badly! So, in solidarity with you, I am now reading it. 🙂 I’m about a 3rd of the way in. So interesting! Neat history along the way, too. Are you reading it? It’s pretty good.

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