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.
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.
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?
I suspect that God has known this all along. And I suspect that He forgives me.
My holiest moments. Laid before you. Bared.