My First Holy Communion and Confirmation of Faith to the Catholic Church took place at a church in Maine in 1960. My mother dressed me in white to symbolize the purity of my soul, although she also had me wear a red jacket with a black velvet lapel. I had a fight with my best friend Chaney after the rites.
Not really a fight, but I must have said or done something bad, because I remember his crying and my mother telling me to apologize.
It might have been the first sin confessed to the parish priest.
Father Murray had heard worst.
I had to say one Hail Mary and one Our Father.
“That sounds like you got off light,” Chaney said on the church steps.
“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t say it enough to him. I was leaving town after the end of school. My father had been transferred to Boston. Next year I would be attending a Catholic school.
“Forget about it.” Chaney undid his tie.
I did the same.
We were best friends.
He drowned in Sebago Lake later that year.
I stopped believing in God, but couldn’t tell that to my parents or nuns without earning a hellstorm. I continued to study the Baltimore Catechism and tell my sins to the priests in the confessional.
“Bless me father for I have sinned.” My sins were always the same.
Disobeying my parents and taking the Lord’s name in vain.
The penance was always the same too.
“Five Hail Marys and one Our Father.”
It was almost like paying taxes.
I can’t remember the last time that I stepped inside a confessional.
It must be on the other side of 1970, although my friend Ray Howell became a priest out of high school and last summer at a family barbecue in Boston the monsignor asked me, “When was your last confession?”
“Long time ago.”
“Think of all your sins.”
“That wouldn’t be easy.” And I wasn’t counting speeding or not stopping for red lights.
“Are you sorry?”
“Then you are forgiven.”
“What about the hail marys and our fathers?” They were lower case to me now.
“I think we said enough in our childhood. Now what about another beer?”
He was a priest for my own heathen heart and I chanted, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa.”
I am truly most sorry, but I wanted a beer too, so I joined him at the bar.
It was certainly more congenial than a confessional.