Recently the St. Paul paper’s Bulletin Board has had quite a few humorous memories of people going to confession in their youth. I sent in a few of mine. If you grew up Catholic, they might trigger some funny memories of your own. If you are not Catholic, they will give you a peek into that mysterious booth in Catholic churches – the CONFESSIONAL.
The Old Hand : “At St. Francis on the first Thursday of the month, the nuns marched the kids to Confession in the church. There were two permanent confessionals, one on either side of the church. But on this special day, there was a third confessional — a portable one that sat down the center aisle, right by the altar rail. The two young priests manned the permanent confessionals, but the third was the Monsignor’s domain, and the nuns picked out the ‘special projects’ to go to the Monsignor for Confession.
“Those unfortunates sat single-file in pews along the center aisle. Sat there sweating, awaiting their fate. They sat far enough back so they couldn’t hear the kid in the box talking, but they could be in the back rows and still hear the Monsignor as he roared at the penitent. And when he finally got rid of the kid, he would step out and look at the row of those waiting. He wanted to see who would be next.
“The minute he went back inside the confessional, the kids in his center row jumped up and there was a massive switching of seats.
“St. Francis was not my parish; I just went to school there. When I went to Confession in my own parish, I had problems — mainly because the priest never used the impersonal ‘my son.’ He always called me by my first name, and would talk to me after the Absolution. He would ask me things like if my grandmother was feeling any better, or remind me that I had to serve the funeral Mass on Monday. And his penances always ran to saying three decades of the Rosary. I often wondered: If I got that kind of penance, what kind would he give to those only-Easter-and-Christmas churchgoers?
“When I got my own car, I, and many of the teenagers in the city, went to confession at the Little Flower. You might have to stand in a long line, but once inside the box, it was bing-bang. No preaching. Always the same penance: three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.
“I know for a fact that the Father never bothered to listen to what you had to say. I bet you could have told him you committed suicide twice, or told him he’d better get outside because the church was on fire, and still you would get the same reply: ‘Three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys. Now say an Act of Contrition.’ And before you finished the Act of Contrition, he had you absolved, the black talking panel was closed, and he was listening to the person on the other side of the confessional.”
Published: St. Paul Pioneer Press Bulletin Board 3/4/15