Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas Confession


Today I went for my annual Christmas confession. I don't sin that much so I have limited my confessions to once a year. As I got to church the car park was full and there were cars parked in the street. I did not know there were that many sinners in town.
 
Father Frederic, our Parish priest, is away for two weeks and has been replaced by Father Gaston, a priest of French origin, until our regular priest returns.

Father Gaston doesn’t say much, maybe because he hasn’t much to say to us. Who knows! He is tall and thin and looks very severe. He has one of those unfortunate white skinny faces which look like a skull. A long oval shape with sunken eyes and bony features revealing the contours of his jaws as he grins benignly rather than smile. I bet he could turn someone into a pillar of salt by just thinking it.

I don’t mean that he is nasty or evil in any way; he just looks that way and would frighten any cat out of its nine lives. Maybe I should introduce him to mine.

Anyway, as I was saying, I went to confession. Father Gaston was in attendance.

We have one of those wooden confessionals which consists of a compartment in the middle which the priest enters and sits on a bench, and we genuflect on either side, pulling the curtain behind us so no one sees us, and tell him all our wrong-doings. We have to whisper, of course; otherwise everyone in church would hear our sins. If they were to hear mine they would no doubt be in hysterics of laughter!

I knelt down and whispered closely to the opening in the confessional: “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned …”

“I cannot hear you!” said Father Gaston in his strong French accent loud enough to be heard in Paris.

“Ehmmm…” I cleared my throat as I got nearer still to the little window opening in the confessional. At that point my knee slipped off the kneeler on the floor and I crashed forward hitting my face hard against the panel behind which the priest was sitting.

He must have jumped out of his tightly stretched skin dropping his jaw to the floor in the process. I know that the rest of the penitents in church must have been startled out of their meditations too as I heard murmurs echoing behind the confessional curtain.

I straightened myself and soon realized that the knock to my face had started a nose bleed. I took out a handkerchief quickly and said in a loud enough voice to be heard by everyone “We’ll have to continue this conversation at another time …”

I got out of the confessional holding my head back and covering my face with the now red handkerchief.

As I made my way to the exit I heard a lady say to another: “I’m not going to confession today. This new French priest is rather violent with his penance!”

16 comments:

  1. Ouch! Seems like there's danger both in confessing our sins and not doing so. Great story, Victor!
    Blessings!

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    1. I asked the priest if I could confess by phone and he said "Non!" which I think means "No!" in French. Perhaps by e-mail then?

      God bless you Martha.

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  2. Oh thank you for another fun chuckle, brother! Hope you and your family have a Blessed Christmas!

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    1. Thank you Bettie. It's good to laugh.

      Wishing you and your family the best Christmas ever. God bless.

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  3. Love this, Victor, especially the description of Fr. Gaston! I'm all in favor of communal penance services where you pray together and then get absolution!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Sister Ann Marie.

      I need your advice/viewpoint. Here in the UK, we used to have communal confession/penance.

      The priest used to read passages from scripture and then to help us with our private confessions he would say "Have I been selfish lately and ignored the needs of others? Have I bent the truth and hurt others in the process? Did I listen to and contribute to gossip?" and so on ...

      Then he would give absolution to everyone in church.

      This year, this practice has been stopped by the bishops in our country and we are to have one-to-one confessions. Any views? Thanx.

      God bless and wishing you a splendid Christmas.

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    2. I think in most parishes they have the traditional type of confession that you described--going one by one to the priest and confessing sins/faults and receiving individual absolution. We also have that here at our motherhouse at regular intervals with a priest coming for individual confession. However, we also have a communal penance service such as you describe twice a year--usually during Advent and Lent. We've had it in different ways. There is always a series of readings and prayers, including an examination of conscience. Sometimes following that we go to the priest/priests for individual confessions after which the priest administers a general absolution. Other times we have the prayer service as described above and the priest gives a general absolution without the individual confession. However, the possibility of individual confession is always available because our chaplain comes here to celebrate Mass every day. Hope that is helpful!

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    3. Thank you Sister for your response.

      Here too in the UK, we had individual confessions and communal ones with a general absolution. However, this year, with no explanation, the bishops have banned communal penance services and general absolutions.

      Unfortunately, the Catholic Church seems to be sending a lot of mixed messages to us simple followers.

      Another example - the bishops of England have decreed that we should not eat meat on Fridays. But this is OK in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. It is too far to travel to Scotland on a Friday night for a hamburger and French fries! If the Church wants to bring in new rules they should be universal surely?

      Wishing you a splendid Christmas and a Peaceful and Hopeful New Year.

      God bless.

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    4. I have never heard of such a thing, Sister. How does that work?

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    5. We used to have similar confessions, Manny, here in the UK.

      The church would be full of people on their knees. The priest would help us examine our conscience by saying: "Have we been self-centred lately and not care for others? Have we spread lies and rumours? Etc ..." He read from a list and the whole examination of conscience lasted 10 minutes or so. Then he would ask us all to pray the act of contrition; and then raising his hands he would absolve all our sins. No individual confession or penance was needed.

      This only happened at Christmas and Easter.

      Individual confessions were still available if that's what you wished.

      This year, for no explained reason, the UK bishops have stopped this practice and we are back to individual confessions.

      God bless.

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    6. Wow that sounds too easy. I’d go for that in a heartbeat but frankly it doesn’t sound kosher. I’d leave the church wondering if my sins were truly absolved.

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    7. I understand what you are saying, Manny. Perhaps that's why, after many years, the bishops here have stopped this practice.

      God bless.

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  4. I have to ask--"Did he speak English?" Might be the reason for so many in attendance if the priest would not understand what you said?
    Blessings, Victor!

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    1. Good point, Lulu, good point. And an idea for another confession post, I guess.

      God bless you, my friend.

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  5. Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my humour, Manny.

      God bless you and yours.

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