My Mom Confesses

If you’re a Catholic of a certain age, you remember that in the old days, we had to confess our sins. You might have seen it in the movies, but it was what we really did. You’d go into the church and on one side there was a place where you went in a little door, knelt down in a dark room, and waited for the priest to slide the little door that separated him from you. You confessed your heinous sins to the gauzy outline of a man who looked like the pope or something. It was weird and sometimes you wondered what he had for lunch.

So what did I confess? I like, might have said a bad word. Like shoot. (I was little.) Or had a “bad” thought (like wanting to stay home from church). Or if you ate meat on Friday. Or you forgot to say your prayers one night, those were sins. For me, I didn’t have a lot to confess, but we were supposed to go at least once a month. I think more devout Catholics were supposed to go once a week. I’m not sure. Did the nuns go every day?

ANYWAY, my mom was a “convenient” Catholic. Her strategy was to find the priests that gave her the least number of Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s to say as penance and go on their day in the confessional box. She especially liked the priests who said, “Oh, that’s not a big sin, really. In fact, let’s not call it a sin this time. Try to do better next time.” Like a speeding ticket warning or something.

Sometimes, there was a substitute in the confessional, and she’d get a hard priest. “That’s terrible. Say 50 Our Father’s and 50 Hail Mary’s.” My mom felt horrible. Then he’d say, “Now, go in peace, my child.”

“Go in peace?” she might have said. “I might just go to hell if I don’t say these in time!” My mother would be a wreck. But then she didn’t have a lot to confess anyway. Just yelling at us kids for something or other. And that was okay. We probably deserved it.

It was fun seeing how my mom “interpreted” Catholicism. She was pretty practical. And I’m sure she’s in heaven now. She was a great mom, even if she thought confessing would get her into heaven. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask her if I ever get there. It will be great to see her again.

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