Forgive Me Father

Forgive Me Father

Grade 2

Finally it’s here, my first reconciliation. Every Sunday before this, the beaten bloodstained Jesus has looked down at me wearing a gentle smile. Today however, He seems rather dismissive. Maybe because it’s Friday. Or maybe it’s because He already knows how bad I’ve been. Was it a mortal sin to ask my mom what sex meant? Or venial? She never did answer me… Anyway, why am I so nervous? God’s supposed to forgive me no matter what. But what if that was particularly hell-worthy and my mom didn’t answer me out of fear for how she would spend the rest of eternity? I’ll just ask for extra penances so I know for sure that Jesus forgives me.

As each of my classmates descends from the secret room behind the alter I look for any traces of holiness. They all look more sanctified than I. I lean over to ask my classmate if Father Carr’s the one hearing our confessions but a loud, wet “SHHHHHHH” interrupts my forming discussion. I always liked him. He talks about the Red Sox and goes on about things that I don’t understand like bridegrooms and mustard seeds. All I know about mustard is that I hate the taste, and if Heaven is like a tree of it, count me out. My thoughts, jumbled and senseless, yield to the sight of a small, raisin-faced old nun motioning at me.

“Pam sweetheart, you’re next,” she mouths to me. How Sister Janet manages to be heard without speaking a word fascinates me.

“Okay, thank you Sister Janet!” I respond, slightly louder than acceptable.

Great, another sin right there. How many have gone undetected? Does yelling in church even count? My heartbeat quickens as I walk to what feels like a premature Final Judgment.

I enter the musky wood paneled closet and take my seat. It’s still warm from the last sinner. I have never been this close to Farther Carr before. He looks more red than I expected, the shade seen in cartoons when they hold their breath for too long. A pair of glassy eyes meet mine behind his crooked spectacles.

“Come in child,” he tries to say. The slurred words confuse me more than the fact that I have already entered the room. A distinct but untraceable scent arises in the stillness. At once I realize, I am witnessing my first big sin. As I stare as his slightly bobbing head I begin:

“Forgive me father for I have sinned…”

Grade 7

Alright, I have to just bite the bullet. I’m leaning against the frame of the infamous wooden door, careful not to motion my body downward and risk a splinter to the back. A picture of Michelangelo’s Pieta hangs before me. He died for this[1]? Mary’s strong right hand holding Jesus’s draped, dead body makes little sense to me. I’m not sure I feel very sinful. But that notion within itself seems like a sin.

Perhaps if someone other than Father Carr gave me absolution, then I’d feel more at ease. Is it wrong of me to wish for another priest? I think about this as I enter the room where he’s located. I observe him, only for a moment. More fidgety than I remember, that’s certain, but so am I. His eyes are fixated on the upper wall behind me, refusing to make eye contact. This is an improvement from his usually unsteady gaze, I suppose. Feeling immediately as though my pre-pubescent woes won’t matter as much as the spot on the wall with which he is entranced, I decide that this time I’ll lie. Looking straight at the pure white square of his clerical collar I begin:

“Forgive me father for I have sinned…”

Grade 12

Finally, it’s Friday. The light morning fog is just starting disappear as I walk toward my first class of the day. Thank God it’s religion. The Chick-Fil-A parking lot got a little out of hand this morning[2]. No doubt Father Horgan will be busy talking incessantly about how great of a priest he is in comparison to his elders. Or, if I’m really lucky, he’ll be converting my male classmates’ names into homosexual jokes.[3] Either way he won’t care about my tardiness or notice pink droopy eyes. If he asks, I got sick, allergies…whatever. When at last I reach my seat, I allow for the world around me to come in and out of focus. Father Horgan’s loud Irish accent is the only thing keeping my lazy eyebrows pinned up.

“Well, I don’t suppose any of you remember what today is…” Let me guess, the anniversary of when you and Pope John Paul had a sleepover.

“It’s the first Friday of October, we’re going to confession” Shit.

Is it possible for a person to force upon themselves instant sobriety? If so, now would be the time to channel it. Signs of any such miracle dwindle with each step towards the chapel.

What am I even supposed to say? That I feel remorseful for things that I’ve done? And for what purpose? These thoughts circulate my distracted mind as I pass the stained glass rendition of the Prodigal Son. I clumsily genuflect and kneel, facing a three-foot tall Jesus, holding his arms open and head tilted as though he’s expecting a hug. The smile he wears is welcoming, but my head can’t stop spinning so I look away. The bright blue robes adorning his porcelain frame remain in my peripheral vision. I await my turn, trying not to nod off into a dizzy daydream. When I realize the time has come for me to step forth, I head towards the dim, wooden room.

Locked eyes intently watch me as my hand tries to turn the door nob back into place. Can he tell? In the small confines of this room I always could. Just as this thought crosses my mind, I look at Father Carr with the same curiosity of many years ago. He has lost weight and his hands rest firmly on his crossed right knee. His face, though blotchy with age, bears no unnatural redness. Have his eyes always been blue?

I can feel my head slightly bobbing. Struggling to control my slurred speech I begin:

“Forgive me father for I have sinned…”

***

[1] “This” meaning sins. Particularly, my petty sins, nobody should die for my cheating on an algebra test.

[2] Catholic school teenagers, for some reason, enjoy performing illicit activities in parking lots of Christian establishments.

[3] His personal favorite, turning Gabo into “Gayboy”.

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