The Absolutely Mortifying Mortification of Absolution

Sep 28, 2021 | Blog, Essays

            I committed a sin that was particularly embarrassing for me.  Whenever I commit a sin that is particularly embarrassing, I think of the early Christians who used to stand up and do their confession in front of the whole church.  What incredible faith they had!  I had to spend the week girding myself to go into an anonymous confessional and confess behind a screen that kept the priest from knowing who I was.

            Except, I always have the fear that he might recognize me.  He knows me and there are certain characteristics about my voice and mannerisms that make me unique and identifiable.  Hence, the week of girding myself to go confess.

            I even asked Jesus to give me extra help to never commit this sin again so that I’d never have to confess it again, such was my embarrassment.

            It actually ended up being a good week for an embarrassing confession because our parish just got a new associate pastor who doesn’t know me yet.  Comforted a little by this knowledge, I entered the church on Saturday.

            I took a deep breath.  Plan A was to confess to the new priest.

            My mouth dropped to the floor when I saw the confession line wrapped around the back of the church and extending all the way up to the altar.  There was only one priest hearing confessions!  And it was the one who knew me!

            I moved on to Plan B: Get out of this confession.

            I ran back outside and told my husband about the very long line.  He was driving around with the kids to keep them busy.

            “I probably should just go,” I said.  “The line is really long and the baby will get upset.”

            “She’s fine,” he said, in his usual understanding and accommodating way.  “We’ll just keep driving until you’re done.  If you need confession, go do your confession.”

            Why did I have to be married to such a patient and kind man?  I knew it would come back to bite me one day.

            I walked back into the church like a member of the French royal family walking to the guillotine.

            At the end of the very long line, Plan C became fervent praying that Father wouldn’t have time to hear all the confessions.  

            “Please Jesus!”  I practically shouted at the altar in my head as the line crept along towards the confessional.  “Please let him run out of time.  I promise I’ll come back next week to confess when the new priest is here.”

            The line kept moving.  I had no watch or phone to see how much time was left before the vigil Mass started.  There couldn’t be much time left.  The church was filling up with Mass goers and the altar boys were putting on their uniforms.

            The confessors started to enter and exit the confessional at a faster rate, as if someone had pushed a cosmic fast forward button somewhere.  What was Father doing?  How was this happening?

            With each new confessor, I’d pray, “Please let them be the last one.  Please let them be the last one.”  But he kept allowing new confessors over and over and over until I was next in line.

            The person in front of me exited the confessional and I made myself walk into it, close the door and kneel down.

            “Is there anyone else behind you?” Father asked.

            “There are a few more people,” I said.

            “Would you mind telling them you’re the last one, I can’t hear anymore.”

Plan D became a last-minute Hail Mary to get one of the turn-aways to take my place.

I opened the door.  “I’m the last one.  He can’t hear anymore,” I said.  “Would either of you like to go in my place?  Because I can always come back next week.  I’ve got my whole next Saturday wide open.”

            They both gave me friendly waves and walked off.  I gulped, turned around and went back in.

            I made my very embarrassing confession, was given absolution and Plan E was to pray that Father would give me some time to exit and hide before he exited his side of the confessional to go say Mass.

            As I slipped out and practically sprinted to go hide in the anonymity of the filling pews to do my penance, I heard his door open and close at nearly the same time.  “See you tomorrow at the 8 a.m.,” he said to me cheerfully as he rushed to the sacristy to get dressed for Mass.

            “Ahhhhhhh!” I yelled in my head because it would have been completely inappropriate to yell it out loud in the church.  “He knows who I am!”

            I was mortified!  Mortified!  But I will never, ever, ever commit that sin again.  Never.  Every time I’m tempted, I will think of this horrifying day and resist it.  Which reminded me of my prayer for Jesus’s extra help in not committing this particular sin again.  He really came through in a big way.  Now, if I could only get Him to answer my prayers for financial provision with equal fervor.

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1 Comment

  1. John Bernard Handrahan

    So great to see you back in the blog ! I’ll have to send it to Ann Kemper to cheer her up ! She’s another one of your groupies !

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