I went to Catholic school for the fourth grade and it was then that I made my Communion (yes I am an atheist Jew who made Communion). I tried to get out of it by reminding my teacher, Sister Melody, that I was Jewish; I still had to go, according to her, "Don't worry - it's good for you." Earlier in the year I tried the same tactic to get out of Catechism classes and attending mass.
To my Muslim readers who are not familiar with Catholic practices because they think Christians are infidels and therefore are all the same: in order to make Communion one has to go to Confession first. If you were baptized as a child then your First Confession is a great turning point in your life, even more important than Baptism since you had no input into that affair.
Sister Melody had us take out a ruled sheet of paper and asked us to write down all of our sins so that we would have a list ready for our First Confession. As she went around the room I could see her nodding her head at different desks but she stopped cold at mine. She tapped my head with her ruler, "Why aren't you writing?"
With as blasé a voice as I could muster I said, "I can't think of any sins that I ever committed."
Not the words she expected to hear. Sister Melody had a very pretty face - smooth complexion, very pale, you could tell she never went out in the sun uncovered, but before I was half-way through telling her why my sheet was blank, creases appeared on her brow and blood filled her cheeks. This was too much for her; the only other person she knew who was without sin went on to have an immaculate conception.
She tapped on my head again, but this time it was not to get my attention, "I will walk around the room one more time, and when I come back I expect to see both sides of that sheet filled with sins."
I have to tell you, it's tough to remember all the crimes of your life when you are only ten years old (I was two years older than the rest of the class) and so I decided to fudge my list. I first went through the Ten Commandments and listed every one of them. I know what you are thinking, "How can you list killing or adultery as one of your sins?" Actually I remember Sister Melody saying that thinking evil thoughts as just as bad as doing the actual evil thing.
Then I jotted down the seven deadly sins: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth with fabricated details of how I committed each one. For example for envy, I wrote that I was envious of a fellow student's shoes. For murder, I wrote that I often thought of going back in time and killing Stalin. I also added that I wondered if I would get any points for all the millions who I had unkilled by my actions.
By the time she came back I had almost filled both sides of the paper. Thankfully she didn't read any of the lines.
Finally comes the time for my First Confession and after the introductory recitations I began to list my sins, "Father forgive me for I have sinned, I committed the sin of anger, I was angry with my mother and so I put a hamster in her bed to frighten her."
I didn't confess to all the sins on my sheet, I just picked a few at random, otherwise I would be in that booth all day. I finished up with, "Father forgive me for I have sinned, I committed the sin of fornication."
Now all along, on the other side of the grill the priest seemed to be rather indifferent to my ramblings. Suddenly he became quite alert, "I am sorry my son, can you repeat that?"
And so I did. I could see his beady eyes trying to focus on my face wondering with whom such a young man could have fornicated. A long silence hung in the air. It dawned on me that he was probably waiting for me to go into details.
Although I had details for all my other sins, I had put off writing down a named person as the object of that sin. Off guard, I blurted out, "It was with Sister Melody."
Silence, this time even longer and quieter than before.
Finally the priest simply said, "Yes..."
I continued, this was embarrassing now, "Father forgive me because I committed the sin of thinking about fornicating with Sister Melody."
After instructing me of how inappropriate this was and getting me to promise to stop thinking those thoughts, the priest gave me more than 30 Hail Marys and 20 Our Fathers for penance.
I don't know if any of you know how long it takes to say that, but after about 5 of the first and 2 of the second, I stopped and walked out of church.
I made my Communion and unfortunately lost the photo of me in my white suit, yellow tie, and rosary beads clasped in my hands. Upon first seeing that photo my mother said that if the Anti-Christ could be photographed he would look just as I do in that photo.
At my next confession, I confessed that I did not do my entire penance. But I promised I would not fail to say them all in the future. Surprisingly the penance for not doing 30 Hail Marys and 20 Our Fathers was only 5 of each. I only did 2 of each and even that was pushing it; there is nothing as boring as repetitions of something when your heart is not in it. That was the last confession I went to.
I should mention that I started smoking at age nine and never confessed to that since no one told me it was wrong. I quit the filthy, disgusting habit back in 1977 after smoking for 24 years. I only regret a handful of things in my life, smoking is at the top of the list.
Here's a confession joke:
An elderly Italian man who lived on the outskirts of Rimini, Italy, went to the local church for confession. When the priest slid open the panel in the confessional, the man said: Father... During World War II, a beautiful Jewish woman from our neighborhood knocked urgently on my door and asked me to hide her from the Nazis. So I hid her in my attic."
The priest replied: "That was a wonderful thing you did, and you have no need to confess that"
"There is more to tell, Father... She started to repay me with sexual favors. This happened several times a week, and sometimes twice on Sundays."
The priest said, "That was a long time ago and by doing what you did, you placed the two of you in great danger. But two people under those circumstances can easily succumb to the weakness of the flesh. However, if you are truly sorry for your actions, you are indeed forgiven."
"Thank you, Father. That's a great load off my mind. I do have one more question."
"And what is that?" asked the priest.
"Should I tell her the war is over?"