Monday, May 23, 2011

Confessions of a Seven-Year-Old

My very close relative, who prefers to remain nameless, admitted her seven-year-old grandson will probably not become a priest. After what she told me about her grandchild’s first confession/first communion, I think most priests might even rethink their choice. It seems the lad, Indiana Jones (not his real name), was nervous before they piled into the car to go to the church for his first confession.

“I don’t know what to say,” he moaned. “I don’t know what to confess.” He paced around the living room.

His mother hoisted an eyebrow. “Well,” she suggested, “you could mention all the times you’ve smashed your brother, or the times you’ve said ‘no’ to me.”

He looked hopeful, but then his shoulders sagged. “No, that won’t work, because you can only confess to things that you are sorry about.”

When it was time, they filed out to the car and drove to the church. Indiana made his way in like a sacrificial lamb. The priest entered the center of the confessional and each child took a turn in the cubbyholes on either side. But something was amiss. A steady stream of children came and went on the priest’s right, but on the left, Indiana disappeared behind the curtain and did not return.

His father sat in the church, at first the proud papa, but as the minutes ticked by, his shoulders tensed and his breathing became shallow. His eyes on the lush curtain, he saw Indiana’s head poke out and the lad crooked his finger, beckoning his father to come to the confessional. His father slowly shook his head, glancing up for the bolt of lightning. Indiana vanished. The click of seven-year-old girl’s shoes, the creaking of wooden pews, and hushed whispers filled the next few minutes until Indiana inched out of the confessional, tears streaming down his cheeks. His father ran to his aid, but Indiana was so distraught, he couldn’t talk, couldn’t move.

It took a while to coax him to a bench and more time for him to tell, in hiccupped sobs, that the priest had told him to think of his own penance.

This was not what they had practiced. He didn’t know what to do. Little Indy kneeled in the confessional, trying to think of what penance he might give himself and waiting for the priest to okay it. The priest did not explain that he could leave, so Indy waited, and thought, and waited and thought until he could stand it no longer. When he asked for help, and his father abandoned him, it was more than he could bear.

Indiana’s father took him home and comforted him. When he asked his son if he had thought of any “sins” to confess, Indiana said, “Yes, I told the priest about six hundred things.”

Glory be and the saints be praised. No wonder the priest had him think up his own penance.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The next day they went to church for his first communion and Indiana realized he had no money to give when they passed the basket around. Not wanting to have to confess that the next time, he begged his mother to give him some coins. She dug in her wallet and handed him some cash which he carefully slipped into the envelope and sealed. But the collection basket had already passed him by. Sweat beaded on his forehead. The mass continued, but the little envelope burned in his hand. By the time mass was over and the priest turned and told everyone to “go in peace”, Indiana knew he had only one shot at redemption. Desperate, he vaulted from his seat, hurtled up to the front of the church and jabbed the envelope into the priest’s hand. When he turned around, the entire congregation stared at him.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be surprised if poor Indiana became a protestant.


  1. omgosh, i would make a horrible catholic or a fabulous one, depending on your point of view. i'd be in confession every other hour...better to be safe than sorry... :)

  2. I made my first confession at St. Maria-Theresa Church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I was pretty much equally traumatized by the burden of my own "sins," most of which I also wasn't sorry for—nor did I ever understand why I should be. It didn't help that the nun who taught the CCD class was also named Maria-Theresa. I thought the church was named for the sister. Near as I could tell, mean as a bucket of spiders was the main criteria for being a "saint."

    It took me a good thirty years to decompress from that, first as a Protestant and then, ultimately, as a heathen. Phew!

  3. Single,

    Well, maybe it is better to start now, when you can think of stuff to confess. :)


    Amazing the nun had the same name, and, of course, all the kids probably thought the church belonged to her. She probably went to St. Agatha church next and said she was Sister Agatha.

    I got hit with an blackboard eraser by one of 'em, which she hurled across the room.

  4. Alas, one of my issues as a former Catholic is that I don't think 7 year olds are sinners. Poor Indiana....tell him Pagans are often happier folk!

  5. Ashling,

    I'm sure it will take him years to drag himself back up onto the curb. Poor guy.


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