Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So it’s Ash Wednesday

As I am now a pagan this has no real meaning to me. But as a former Catholic I still have this vague feeling that I ought to be at Mass, or coming up with something to give up or going to confession. Lent always reminds me of confession

There is some sort of rule about going to confession during Lent so you can go to communion during the year as I recall. Possibly the rules have changed. It’s been awhile

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been…hmm…1981 I think…so it’s been 28 years since my last confession & I’ve been busy since then coveting and having other gods before me.

I’m fairly sure you don’t even have to say that bit anymore.

I was in Catholic school for 12 years and we went to confession twice a year from grade 2 to 8 and once a year after. (Which is odd really because the potential to sin increases once you are teen, especially the venal ones.  Do they still differentiate venal from mortal?)

I always found confession to be an unsatisfying experience. I never felt relief at having the weight of my sins removed with confession & penance. Not because I was a die hard sinner or because I felt so guilty recalling my sins but because I *couldn’t* recall them. That was awkward. There I am sitting face to face with a priest who has known me since baptism & he’s waiting to hear how I failed to honor my parents or was mean to my friends or brother and I have nothing. Nothing comes to mind. I suppose it was the pressure to perform that drove the sins right out of my head. I was sure I had sinned, but couldn’t come up with any specifics. “Can we just leave it at God knows what I have done & I am sorry?” I asked once, but it doesn't work like that. You need to unburden yourself of details and admit your specific faults to be forgiven.

So usually I made up things. They were things that I had probably done, so they weren’t outright lies, but they weren’t exactly the truth either. And I could never bring myself to add “plus all the lies I’ve just been telling you” to the end of my confession, so the only sin that I actually could remember the details of was left unconfessed.

I always wondered what the other kids did. Did they actually remember that 4 months ago they talked back to their father? Or that 3 months ago they stole someone’s snack or pushed someone on the playground? Usually these things would come back to me a day or so after confession but I always spent the time leading up to my turn in the box wracking my brain to come up with something to confess.

This awkwardness led me to start avoiding confession as soon as I could. In grade school we went into the church one grade at a time, to see one or two priests. 17-20 kids watched over by a teacher & a couple of nuns usually. Lined up in order of height or alphabetically. You sat in order on the left side pews. One by one you went into the booth. 2 people stood in the aisle at a time waiting their turn. People doing penance sat in order on the right side pews. There was no getting out of it.

It was different in high school. There 150 kids in my class and we went into a much larger church, with another class. There were 6 priests in the confessionals. There were nuns & teachers around but they were mostly watching the exits so no used the opportunity to play hooky. There were no rules about sitting on the right or left side or how many people could stand in a line outside a booth. People were praying at the altar or in pews or at various stations of the cross. It was easy to get up, wander a bit, say a prayer or two (I’m sorry I can’t remember my sins Lord, please forgive me) & sit back down someplace else. No one asked, it was on your conscience.

Probably ought to add deliberate avoidance & deception of confession attendance to my list of sins.

So now here I am, 28 years since my last confession and 17 years since my self dedication to the Goddess, still feeling vaguely like I need to go get ashes today.  It’s strange what sticks with you over time.


Maritzia said...

The main thing I didn't like about being Catholic was confession. In almost 20 years of being Catholic, I think I went to confession exactly once. Oh, and it's not confession anymore. It's the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I miss a lot of things about Catholicism (mostly rituals like Ash Wednesday), but I don't miss confession even a little bit.

Luckily, the Goddess is just fine with "I can't remember, but I'm really sorry anyway."

Jenni Jiggety said...

My boys have their first confession this Saturday. Eeek.

Creative Junkie said...

I don't practice any religion but my husband was born/raised Catholic, although I think he's become very disillusioned with his faith.

The Mother said...

Congratulations on your decision to give up Christianity for Lent.