For the first time in forever, I have Friday night plans that don’t involve Degrassi(though there is a marathon this weekend) or high schoolers or getting to bed by 8pm. I’m going to dinner and a movie with my Legionary sisters and Father Patrick(not his real name but I’ve learned my lesson about blog safety). Lest you think I’m about to be involved in Roman Catholic scandal #5637, allow me to clarify. Yes, Fr. Patrick is a priest. He’s 31 and therefore still interested in Adam Sandler movies(what a good Catholic will do in the name of respect for priests). He has often served as confessor to all of us(yes he is the only man who knows most of my dirt.) He is also often in the company of grandmothers and bonafide spinsters. Who can blame him for wanting to hang out with his peers?
Being Catholic isn’t as problematic as it seemed earlier in the year. Pope Benedict has settled into his role as the new pontiff. He hasn’t changed all that much from his Rottweiler of God routine. He still opposes fertility treatments, gay rights, and feminism. He still looks like a nice old man. No one at work is making me feel uncomfortable about my faith. The people I’ve been on dates with seem impressed or, at the very least, respectful of my church involvement. I completed my Purpose-Driven Life journey and have stumbled a few times only to finally feel comfortable again. All it took was one old school confession.
Confession in my parish is done face to face. With a bust of Jesus wearing the Crown of Thorns overlooking us, you sit across from the priest and talk to him. Depending on which priest you confess to, you may receive heartfelt advice, spiritual guidance, or friendly encouragement. It is never as scary or painful as you make it out to be.
At the church near my house, they still do confessions in the box. There are confessionals on each side of the church, complete with lights that flash red when occupied. For my most recent confession, I decided to go with this option. Part of it was convenience; it is a mere 2 minute drive as opposed to 10 to 15 minutes to get across town. Still, I was also needing something more sterile or even somber.
My heart thudded slowly as I entered the dark dusty closet and knelt beside the thick screen. I was worried that the older Vietnamese priest would lash out at me or assign some heavy penance. He did neither. He was gentle and understanding. For some reason, being in the confessional reminded me of my childhood nightlight, that little square of comfort in the darkness.
So I’m hanging out with a priest tonight. I know that doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I know I won’t be saved any sooner or faster. But it’s nice to have one for a friend.