Today’s a cold and rainy day.
On the bright side, the rain is greening up the world outside my window in an Ireland sorta way. April showers and all that…
This afternoon I attended the funeral services for my godfather who passed at the age of 96. He was really more like the grandfather I never had; a wonderful man who showed me a lot of love as a little boy. I am very lucky to have had him and his lovely wife in my life.
A priest said a few words at the funeral parlor. He did a fine job, but listening to his words stirred up lots of old feelings for me.
I was raised a Catholic, but when I left for college I fell out of the habit of attending mass every Sunday.
The truth is, habit was the only reason I ever went to church.
I NEVER felt comfortable in the Catholic church.
Sometime around first grade (6 years old?) I had to make my first confession. For non-Catholics, this means I had to go into a dark little room and tell the priest who was hiding behind a screen how I had sinned against God.
I was terrified by the whole idea of confession. I did not like thinking of myself as a sinner, as someone bad. Up until that time, I thought I was just a little boy. And a pretty good one at that…
Filled with anxiety over the future of my soul, I couldn’t sleep for the week before I was to repent. To further add to my stress, I had trouble thinking of what I had done to sin in the eyes of God in my six wild and careless years of life.
Um, sure, I had yelled at my sister and did not always do as my parents told me, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to make the grade with the priest. The old guy scared the pants off me (not literally) and I wasn’t taking any chances and getting into bigger trouble by not coming through with a bona fide sin.
So when I closed the door in the dark little booth, what did I do?
I lied, of course.
Stealing a scene from a movie, I told the priest I broke a neighbor’s window with a baseball and ran away. As best I could tell, the priest bought it.
Grounded in fear, my relationship with the church was built on a rocky foundation. As the fear-based messages continued to roll in during my adolescence, ("If you keep listening to that devil music, you can expect eternal damnation"), any connections I felt disintegrated.
I was reminded of all of this today when the priest began to talk about how when our time comes, God will be waiting there like a shepard tending his flock and sorting through his sheep. God will lay his judgment down upon us and separate us into the GOOD and the BAD.
As I listened, I felt that same pit in my stomach that I felt as I waited to confess my sins for the first time.
This. Just. Feels. Wrong. To. Me.