Years ago when I used to go to Confession, I would first do a mental inventory. I'd try to figure out how I had sinned so that when I knelt down in that dark box and waited for the male figure on the other side to slide open the little door, I’d have something to say.
“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been six weeks since my last Confession. Father, I ________ (This is where I had to fill in the blank.)
When I was a kid, I’d say something like: “I lied to my mother three times and I disobeyed her twice.”
“Is there anything else?” the priest on the other side would ask.
“For your penance, say five Hail Mary’s, and five Our Fathers.”
Then the priest would pray over me to absolve me of my (made up) sins.
The little door would slide closed. I’d get up off my knees, open the heavy velvet curtain and walk up to the altar railing, kneel down again, then bless myself.
“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
I’d say my penance, feel cleansed and hot-tail it out of church. Then, I’d breathe a sigh of relief that I had survived that ordeal…until the next time.
What I learned from that early religious experience was that I had been instructed to feel guilt, to search my mind for artifacts of guilt, sometimes for things that I hadn’t done. Even if I had not sinned I felt compelled to make something up so that I could feel the requisite guilt. I had to tell some mysterious, authoritative man sitting in a little box about it, and then wait for him to tell me that I was OK.
With all the mandates, rules and guidelines for obedience, I carried the feeling with me of living in that dark little box with the specter of guilt choking me for most of my life. Orthodoxy can do that to innocent minds. “Slam!” the door would shut closed and I’d find myself in the dark, smelling the incense of damnation.
“There must be a another way.”
And I have found it!
Top photo by Barb Adams (c)2014