The wind pulled me into the church as soon as I managed to open the large oak door. As I was swept inside I was wondering if my mere presence was adding yet another sin to my soul. Identifying the confessional booth was rather simple but I entered with great trepidation before kneeling behind the screen.
“May the Lord be in your heart and help you make a good confession.”
The priest’s voice was more ominous than I had expected and it took me a moment before I started my confession. Ripping off what Hollywood had taught me about confessing I tentatively started to disclose my sins;
“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I am not Catholic, and therefore have never been to confession…”
I paused for a moment but when the confessional booth did not ignite in flames I continued:
“I had a weekend full of debauchery. I exceeded the speed limit. I ate things that are in no way advantageous for my health.” I warmed up with a few mediocre grievances before plunging into the whoppers. “I did drugs that I swore I would never try again, I engaged in intimate relations with multiple partners both male and female. “
There was a small cough that came from the other side of the screen and I was not sure if it was induced by my confession or the dry air in the booth. But I trudged on:
“It is likely that I killed a turtle, unintentionally. I have lied continuously about all the events of the past few days. But the part that disturbs me the most was that I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. The adrenaline that accompanied each transgression was addicting. I feel guilty and ashamed of my behavior now that it is over but to be completely honest the only reason I have not continued to indulge myself is because I could never afford the drugs!”
I laughed nervously as I awaited my doom. Now was the moment that the Priest would assure me that I was lost in God’s eyes. He would proclaim that my only hope was to join a convent and live out my days abstaining from all indulgences.
“Well my child, since you are not religious at this moment in your life, your penance is not one of a traditional nature. You are to enroll in monthly skydiving, start giving to a wildlife fund of your choice and disconnect from anyone you were involved with in the last few days. That is your penance, since you are not Catholic is it correct to assume you do not know the ‘Act of Contrition?’”
“You are correct,” I managed to say while reeling from the penance I had just been given.
“If you complete your penance you will be absolved of all your sins. You may go in peace my child, and know that you are always welcome here.”
When I arrived home I sat in front of the television in quite a daze, still processing the events of the morning, unaware of the passage of time. The ASPCA commercial that plays Sarah McLoughlin in the background roused me from my comatose state. At the end of the commercial I considered it, “$18.00 a month,” I thought, “Isn’t it only $0.50 a day to sponsor a child for Save the Children? I guess the ASPCA had to spend a lot of money to use the Sarah McLoughlin song.” I grabbed my laptop and within 5 minutes I was officially a contributing member of the World Wildlife Fund, contributing a mere $10 a month. I then picked up my phone and cleaned out the contacts that I needed to extricate myself from.
Contribute to wildlife: Check.
Disengage with those who may influence me poorly: Double Check.
And now to find a place to go sky diving, this is the best penance ever!
I realized how much my demeanor had changed since I had first left the house that morning and also that I had not truly enjoyed the events of my past weekend. I was genuinely excited about the prospect of completing my penance and maybe even visiting that church again.