Saturday night with sinners – it’s not what you think

Saturday night with sinners – it's not what you think
One religious rule in our household back in the '60s was the major reason my mother piled the six of us kids into the Buick station wagon and drove us to church for confession on Saturday nights.

I think the other reason Mom hauled us to confession was to help us behave. A little bit of contrition would do some good. And with our large brood, my mother needed all the help she could get.

There's nothing quite like being 16 years old and waiting in line to pour out all the naughty things you did the week before. But I was a pretty good kid and this was a bit of a challenge for me.

Let's see … I snapped at my brothers – all three of them. I resented how skinny my sisters are – couldn't fit into any of their clothes. I wished I could run away from home, never to return. I was mad at my geometry teacher, Mr. Gordon, for dropping me from his class. "You are not ready for geometry," he quipped. "You are much better suited for typing." The nerve of him! I didn't help my mom around the house with the zeal and efficiency she expected from me. … There, that should do it.

While waiting, I felt conflicted while reviewing my sins. I had to make a good impression with a soulful plea for forgiveness, but I felt kind of silly over such lightweight crimes.

Finally it was my turn. I cranked the handle on the door of the confessional, opening it. The dimmed silence inside strangely felt good. The attentively waiting silhouette of the priest was comforting.

I knelt and began my prayers. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned in thought, word, and deed," I said, making the sign of the cross. "I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned. My last confession was one week ago. Since then, I do not recall committing any mortal sins. My sins are … "

As I divulged my list, I felt a solemn intimacy that I trusted. In some ways, confessing to my priest was like talking to Santa Claus. I could tell him the worst in my life and feel vindicated. I could walk into that tiny darkened booth stained and come out cleansed.

The only thing that spoiled my time in the confessional box was the stirring of others waiting outside the thin wooden door.

They, too, had flocked here to lay their burdens down and were just waiting in line for me to emerge purified. Shuffles. Whispers. Sneezes. Coughs. Deep sighs. Amen.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail

© 2007 Paula Damon

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