Ok, so this is not ‘part 2’ of my post. It is in fact the LONGEST tangent ever. But it has a point. So read it, stay with me, because I will refer back to it as it makes my future point crystal clear.
In the Catholic church before you make you first communion you must make your first confession with the priest. This is pretty much a terrifying aspect as you are about eight years old and now you have to tell someone, a man of GOD, willingly, all the stuff you have done wrong. Now this may surprise some of you but I was not the perfect angel you all imagine me to have been as a child. Shocker, I now. But there are only so many ways you can say ‘I fought with my sister and pulled her hair’ which was pretty much the theme of all my childhood sins.
So I was making my first confession and the first thing I notice is we are not lining up to go in the confessional boxes, we are lining up to go into a room to talk face-to-face with a REAL LIVE PRIEST. I’m sure they told me this ahead of time, and I’m sure I was busy day dreaming when I was told. I mean at least in the confessional box you had a modicum of privacy to hide your shame from the priest. But no such luck for me. So I sit down and this old priest hunches over to look at me. I’m sure he said something nice but all I remember thinking is ‘they won’t let you have first communion with all the other kids if you don’t do this and they will kick you out and you will have to leave and your parents will be mortified.’
I start with a simple one, “sometimes I don’t listen to my parents.”
I sneak a look up at the priest, he nods and says “And…”
Oh man, I have to keep going! I steal a glance sideways, all the other kids seem to be handling this no sweat, what is WRONG with them? I continue with “sometimes I fight with my sister.”
“And…” the priest says again.
Ok, I decide to let go with a big one, “I had a fight with Carolyn Thomas (I don’t know why but I confessed using her whole name) over a toy and I wouldn’t let her play with it”
“Who is Carolyn Thomas?” asked the priest
“My friend, we go to school together and we have the same teacher and in kindergarten we had the same dress and wore it on the same day.” (I babble when I’m nervous).
“And…” he says again.
Ok come on! How many sins does he think I have? I’m eight, I haven’t had that much time to sin that much, give me a few more years. Then I start to worry that maybe he doesn’t like my dress. All the other little girls had white first communion dresses with pink sashes. I had insisted on a dress with a blue sash. Why? Who the heck knows, but I remember I was very insistent with my mother in the Carlton department store that only a dress with a blue sash would do. Maybe he thinks I’m a rebel wearing a blue-sashed dress and must have a lot of sins. So I’m sitting there and the priest just keeps staring at me, and all I am thinking is that I am about to be the first kid ever kicked out of her first communion.
So I lied.
Yup. I lied during my first confession. I started making stuff up that I had done just so I could get through with this. I told like 3 more fake sins and he finally made the sign of the cross and let me go. Whew. Made it! But wait, I just LIED TO A PRIEST at my very first confession! God is going to strike me down for sure and then I am going straight to hell. Not purgatory, H-E-L-L.
Well God didn’t strike me down but I did not go to confession again until I was in college. As I was confessing for the second time I told the priest I felt horrible because I had not gone to confession since my first confession. He asked why and when I told him the story he laughed out loud. So loud that when I left confession everyone waiting outside gave me the oddest looks. But I didn’t care. That second priest confirmed for me what I had felt for some time. God doesn’t operate on the ‘tit-for-tat’ system, God is not a retributive God handing out our punishments each time we sin. But the reverse is also true. Just as God didn’t swoop down and punish me immediately for my lying to the priest, He isn’t going to swoop down and rescue me from every calamity that may befall me. God isn’t some big wish granting fairy in the sky and we just call God up and let Him know what we need and He does it.
Now had I known all this when I was eight, my first communion would have gone a lot smoother. But then I wouldn’t have this incredibly long tangent to tell you all.