I’ve been wanting to write about my first confession for a while. It was a traumatic experience, but it makes for a good story! Now that I’ve written it, I feel like it would be the perfect start to a young adult novel. If you have a chance to read it below, please let me know what you think.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.”
I was eleven years old when I made my first confession and it was a very big deal to me. I had spent weeks attending Saturday morning classes and preparing for it. Waking up early on a Saturday morning was a true sacrifice, but my religion meant a lot to me.
I was sweet, innocent, naïve, and gullible, and I ate up everything the Catholic adults around me told me. The whole thing was very romantic. I was already a very good girl, so the idea that I would be rewarded for that appealed to me. The idea of the pitfalls of life being spelled out for me also gave me the type of structure I had always longed for, but never had.
I even went to the mall with my mother to pick out a special outfit for this important day. I chose a dress that reminded me of Easter. The bodice was fitted and it had a little off-white collar. It flowed to just below my knees and was painted with swirls of golden and peach pastel flowers. I loved it at first sight, but later when I got home and tried it on, I felt ashamed because I thought maybe it was too babyish. I wore it to my first confession and then never again.
I spent days thinking of what sins I had to confess. I couldn’t really think of anything. I obeyed my parents and teachers, got along with everyone at school, and always did my homework. I knew I wasn’t perfect though, so I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what dirt I had on myself. Finally, I thought of something! Sometimes I was mean and impatient with my little brother. That was it! I was proud of myself for being so reflective and self-aware. That night, I rehearsed my first confession over and over and went to bed with a smile on my face.
The next morning, I sat in the dark wooden pews in St. Ann’s Church with the other first timers waiting for my turn. I was nervous, but mostly proud. This was like the Catholic equivalent of a Bat Mitzvah. It meant I was a mature adult, or at least becoming one. Finally, my turn arrived. I got into the stoic wooden booth and knelt before the darkened latticework screen that blurred the priest on the other side. I knew it was Father McGregor though because he was the only priest in our parish. He wasn’t mean, but he also never smiled. His face seemed to belong to someone that had led a life of hardship and sorrows.
I started my confession and told him that I was mean to my brother sometimes.
He waited for more and that moment of silence seemed like forever.
“What else?” he prompted.
“That’s all I can think of,” I replied. As soon as I said it, I knew he would think that I hadn’t reflected on my sins at all. He must have thought I just tumbled out of bed and pulled it out of the top of my head. I cringed at the thought.
“Everyone sins,” he said. “Repeat after me.”
I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter as my heart sank to the floor. I wanted to argue with him, but I didn’t. A good little girl wouldn’t do that. Nothing he was saying was true and he was making me lie to him and to myself. What bothered me the most was that he believed those things about me when he didn’t even know me and they just weren’t true. I felt deflated. The wind was completely knocked out of me and my spirit was broken. I felt ashamed, ashamed of transgressions I had never even committed, ashamed of hearing and repeating those horrible sins that didn’t belong to me but was still forced to claim as my own. I felt angry and misunderstood, but I didn’t tell anyone until about 20 years later.
“How was it?” Mummy asked me when I emerged from the church.
“Fine,” I responded.
It wasn’t in my nature to complain or share my feelings. I was the quiet type as a child. I kept things to myself and worked through them on my own. I had learned to take care of myself a long time ago.
Like the good little Catholic girl that I was, I went home and said my rosary as penance, just as Father McGregor had instructed. I knelt on the side of the bed and prayed to the Virgin Mary for forgiveness. I prayed with all my might. I prayed to be forgiven for all the sins I had committed. Father McGregor must be right. He was a priest and I was just a bad little girl. I prayed to be absolved from all of these sins that now haunted me, things I didn’t even know I had done. I prayed and prayed, but the shame remained. It was a familiar feeling, and one that would haunt me for the rest of my years.