I shared my First Confession story yesterday. I’m not sure why I remembered so much about it. I think it was because it happened during a very short time span when my life was “normal”. We were a typical Catholic family for the time. My Dad converted to the Catholic religion when he married my Mom. Mom helped me learn my prayers and made sure I had that special dress along with the extra special hair style for my all-important day. Father Lana was the first priest I was old enough to remember and was our parish priest for several years. Looking back, our parish must have been one of his first, if not his first assignment. I say this because many years later, he was the principal of the Catholic grade school my niece and nephew attended in Waterloo. This fact is just one example of how certain people have always been in my life–even if it has been very tangentially.
My other memorable confession story happened not long after my First Confession/Communion. We went to my grandparents for Easter. As every good Catholic knows, you have to go to confession before Easter. I was so excited because I was part of the “adult” group. Everyone got in the car and we drove to Sacred Heart, my grandparent’s parish, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Okay–here’s the little detail I missed. It is one of the first and one of the most blaring examples of not knowing what you don’t know. I had only gone to confession at my little church. You remember, our little church that had one side for the priest, one side for the confessor. At this much bigger church, there were two sides to the confessional. It was like there was one “active” side and one side “in-waiting”. I never noticed. I was so nervous because I was about to tell some new priest my sins. What if he thought I was really bad? My whole entire family was with me–along with at least a hundred other people. I had to really get this one right.
It was my turn. I had my sins tallied and in order. I walked into the confessional, knelt, looked at the window, and began my confession. Sure, it all looked different but I expected that–that screen in front of me must be a lot thicker because I could not see the priest at all.
I looked up. I could now see a dim outline of the priest. He cleared his throat and asked me if I was ready to say my confession. Well, I thought to myself, hadn’t I just done that? They must do things differently here in Ft. Dodge. I told him I couldn’t think of anything.
He sighed. He told me that I needed to go back and examine my conscience some more so I could come back and make a good confession.
I walked out of the confessional and back to the pew where I had just been a few minutes earlier. I thought and thought and thought. I was very confused.
I looked around to see my Dad looking at me. He came and sat beside me, whispering why I was still sitting there? I began my detailed story. As my words spilled out, I could see him beginning to smile. He was beginning to see exactly what had happened.
He put his arm around me and slowly turned me around, showing me the two sides of the confessional. He explained how it was different from what we had at home.
As an adult I can see this must have created quite a dilemma. Does he send me back in line or does he tell me to say three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers and be done so we could all go home? He left the decision to me…
I scrambled back in line, completing one of my first lessons on how somethings are the same but different.
Yes, God certainly does have a very wicked sense of humor.
May God continue to bless us all.
Love and peace, y’all.