On Saturday, Jude will receive his First Reconcilliation. That's the new politically correct, touchy-feely, post-Vatican II term for Confession. It's part of the lead up to his First Communion, which he will receive in May. Jimmy's entire family will be heading west for that, which should provide considerable blog-fodder. I will need to start cleaning for them around the first of March.
They had a meeting the other night of all the Second Grade parents to tell us what to expect on Saturday, and how to help prepare the kids. They'll be handling it in a very open, newfangled way, four priests sitting in chairs spread out behind the altar area, and the kids each go up to a priest, sit in the chair across from them and tell them all of the many terrible sins that Second Graders commit. They'll be far enough apart that they can't hear each other. I remember being forced by Mama to go to Confession EVERY WEEK. I'd get worried and stressed because I hadn't done anything very bad, and feared my confession wasn't sinful enough. I thought of making up something really, deeply evil, just to make it worth the priests time, but then figured I'd have to confess that I'd made it up, which would defeat the purpose. Mostly I just said that I had "been sassy to my Mama." Because I was pretty much always sassy to my Mama.
So anyway, at the end of this meeting, they informed us that after all the children have gone up and given their confession, all of the parents will be asked to come up and go to confession too, to set a good example and show the kids that it's part of what we all do in our Catholic community.
Go up and give Confession face to face to the priest in the middle of the room with everybody watching?!! I was gripped with absolute terror. Because the truth is, I hadn't been to confession in about 6 years, and I had a few things I might want to talk about. And because I tend to weep cathartically during Confession. How could I do this without thoroughly humiliating my child?! Because you KNOW everybody's going to be wondering "What the hell is taking her so long? Why is she crying? She must have done something REALLY bad!" And then gossip would ensue. You know it's gonna happen, somebody stays up there a really inordinately long time and everybody starts to talk.
What to do? I suddenly realized that I had to pre-confess. Go to confession ahead of time and clear out 6 years of wrong-doing. Then on Saturday I'd only have to confess a weeks worth of sin. Which would mostly involve...sassiness. I'll be so quick everyone will think I'm some kind of saint!
So last Saturday, I headed off to church to get a few things off my chest. Brilliant!
They don't handle confession...er...reconcilliation the way they used to. They now offer you a choice of either going in the dark little booth with the priest hidden behind the little screen or just sitting and talking to the priest face to face. Unfortunately, I know all the priests at my church, and they know me, and I have a really distinct voice which they would immediately recognize. And then I'd be sitting there knowing he knows it's me, and he'd be sitting there knowing it's me, and knowing I know he knows it's me. So I just go for the face to face thing, and find it more relaxing.
Confession has changed drastically over the last 30 years in many other ways as well. For one thing, while it used to be that you were supposed to go to confession every week, nowadays, they suggest going once a year. And nobody much talks about "sins". It's more about what you think you "could have handled in a better way".
I realize that to all you non-Catholics, the idea of needing to confess your sins to a priest so that you'll receive absolution, is absolutely weird. And frankly, it's weird to most Catholics too. I mean, I hardly think that the only way God will forgive me for my bad behavior is if I tell some priest, and who knows what the hell he's been up to?
But I actually like confession. It's purging. Cleansing. And I like to think that it's primarily about accountability. It's a formal forum to really contemplate and be accountable for your own behavior. It's one thing to sort of feel sorry that you did something, and another to actually speak it out loud. It's very powerful. It's an opportunity to get it out, put it behind you and move forward. And if the priest is a good one, he'll speak to you as a good therapist would. Nowadays, you're likely to hear him say things like "And how did that make you feel?" or "Well, it sounds like you're really working on that."
So I went last Saturday. I ended up with the priest I knew the least, and I think I scared him. I tend to ramble on and on and crack bad jokes. Lots of bad and...slightly off-color jokes, that this priest didn't seem to get, or maybe he just didn't think it was appropriate to laugh in the middle of someone's confession. I thought I was damned funny. And then of course I cried. He offered me tissues. The whole thing took about 20 minutes, which would definitely have been gossip inducing if I'd waited.
But now I'm left with the following quandry...when I go up to confession tomorrow, should I confess that I confessed? I mean, I have to say that it's been "one week since my last confession". Should I just say nothing and the priest will assume that I'm one of those weirdos who still goes to confession every week?
I found out the other day that quite a few of the other moms hadn't been to confession in 20 years! So maybe I wasn't really doing so terribly. I'll try not to point and jeer when they humiliate their children by staying up there for an inordinate and scandalous amount of time.