Monday, June 4, 2007

Question: What does a WASP know about confession?

I rarely talk about religion with anyone because people can be so dramatic and fanatical about this subject. I try to steer away from anything this controversial and divisive because I need all the friends I can get. However, a friend asked me if I knew anything about confession the other day and I was able to honestly say yes. Now I’m a WASP – White Anglo Saxon Protestant - so my knowledge of confession ordinarily would come from the movies. However, not this time.

For the sake of perspective, I was raised as both a Christian Scientist and a Presbyterian. Yes, it was an odd combination, especially when you throw in the occasional vacation Bible school at the local Baptist church, and the Methodist church with Granny. My religious background was diverse, but Protestant. My greatest confusion was remembering whether I was a debtor or a trespasser that day.

I’ve always loved the formality of what I describe as super organized religions, like Catholicism and the Episcopalians. There’s something about their beautiful ritualistic ceremonies that makes me feel very connected to a higher power. Several of my friends over the years have been Catholic and I was always intrigued by the concept of confession.

While living in Chicago, I actually snuck into the box and confessed once. In the midst of my cancer, right before I hit rock bottom, I was riding a bus home from work one day when we passed an enormous Catholic church. I have no idea what compelled me but I jumped off the bus at the next corner and went into the church. I’d never been to confession before, but I saw lots of people confess in the movies, so when I saw someone coming out of what resembled the confession booth in the movies, I scooted in.

The priest quickly observed that I didn’t know the mechanics of confession and was therefore probably not Catholic. I think I said something like, “Look, I’m not one of you, but I have a really big problem and I need someone to listen. Are you in?” I thought for certain he was going to throw me out, but instead he was very kind and allowed me to bare my soul for quite a while. Then he told me to do a few things I didn’t really understand, and told me to “go with God.” I didn’t quite know where I was supposed to go with him, but then I figured out that was just the priest’s way of getting rid of me.

When I left, I put a lot of money in the offering thingy hoping God wouldn’t strike me dead for attempting to impersonate a Catholic just to be absolved of my numerous sins. I didn’t get hit by a bus on the way home, but it did take a long time to resolve my problems. Maybe that was her punishment.

If hell freezes over and I ever get married, my ideal wedding would take place in a cathedral type church. They’re vast and awe inspiring, but they also feel very intimate and spiritual. I don’t envision hundreds of guests. In fact, if it’s just me, the groom, an official and a witness, that would be absolutely fine. And as soon as the official says “you may kiss the bride,” I would like for a choir or soloist to sing “Ave Maria”. I know the song is associated with all things Catholic, but it’s one of my favorites and always evokes such a sense of peace and serenity. Of course, my mother would lobby for a rousing rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” but she doesn’t get a vote on this one.

And that’s my true confession!


Mary Witzl said...

I have a confession to make: I too was raised as a Protestant, but I've always wanted to do that too! I am impressed that you had the guts to actually go through with it.

Although I can't remember the name, there is a blog devoted entirely to people's secrets which I am sure performs the same function as a parish priest. Some of the things people have sent in are heart- breaking, some of them are very funny. The next time you get the urge, if you don't feel like going all the way to a church, you should try that blog. True, everybody gets to read your secret, but they don't know you from Mickey Mouse. And you are providing entertainment, too, which I see as a plus.

Very clever posting, by the way.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I love this story.

Merry Jelinek said...

This is so funny to me, because I am a Catholic. I was raised with the dark looming box... my daughter just made her first reconciliation (that's the hoity toity Catechist term for confession) last year.

I didn't know non-Catholics were so intrigued by confession. And I know a lot of non-Catholics - my husband's Lutheran, and man, they just don't get all the kneeling and standing at mass, and he really doesn't get the point of all the sacraments - he only had baptism and confirmation...

Well, this could turn into a whole post... in fact I think it will, but I definitely enjoyed reading your thoughts... Which Church, by the way? I've lived in the chicagoland area since birth.