It’s time to put on some khaki pants and a creased button-down shirt and go play make believe for a while.
I exit my house and stroll down Farmington Avenue towards the church, testing out supposed sins for credibility. I need something believable to tell the priest, some act that falls somewhere between trivial and major. Failing to clean my room is not really a sin, but I haven’t done anything really bad either. I plod down the street, looking at the ground as I sample various transgressions and toss the harmless ones into a mental sin-bin. Sexual thoughts? Of course I have those, I’m fourteen. Envy? Yup, that’s natural. This would be much simpler if I was into killing pets or picking fights with smaller kids.
I stroll across the parking lot and march into the empty, darkened church. I dip a finger in the holy-water bowl, do a sign of the cross, and head for the confessional box.
Mike, a kid from my school, exits the booth. I look away from his squat, muscular frame as he zips past. Mike is part of a brash, aggressive family of four boys and two girls who always get into fights. Give one a funny look or an offhand comment, and they come after you like cheetahs on the savannah. But come Sunday Mass, they’re always in the front row.
I sit inside the confessional. A faint light passes through the mesh divider, but the openings are too small to identify the priest. For all I know, I’m unburdening myself to some kid who is messing with me in a deep voice. It’s a deception I’ve considered trying myself.
A clearing throat breaks the silence.
“Good morning my son. Do you wish to confess your sins?”
“Yes Father, I was mean to my mother during the past month.”
Not true. Isn’t lying a sin?
“I see. Is there anything else you wish to confess?”
“My son, I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The priest says a prayer while I marvel at how rote this whole process is. Do I need a plan of action, Father? Shall I approach my mother to resolve this situation? Nope my son, you’re forgiven, see you next time.
“Say two Hail Marys and four Our Fathers before you leave the church.”
I thank the priest and exit the confessional box. I sit on a hard wooden pew, hands in my lap for the five minutes it would take to pray in volume. My fingers squeeze against my knuckles, anxious to do something. I think about real life in the real world. What shall I do with the rest of my day? What would be fun?
I return to the holy water bowl and repeat the sign of the cross. I leave the dark, silent church and emerge into a world of sunshine and sound. It’s like being born again.
published 9 November 2011