The new thing is, no confessional. You sit opposite one another in folding chairs I suppose so you can cringe better.
This is the man I’ll call Father Grim since he has no sense of humor, who welcomed me back into the church in the early 90s. I had left because another priest at St. Patrick’s, the Taj Mahal of New York churches, told me I was a sinner and couldn’t return till I moved out of my boyfriend’s house. I was in my mid-twenties and so devastated I wrote to the pope, receiving no response of course. I remember weeping on the church steps feeling I had no place to go if God’s door was shut to me.
Catholics can be so damned dramatic.
One of the reasons I’m not fond of Father Grim is he took sides in a dispute between me and another parishioner – a married man I was canoodling with. He blamed it all on me as if I had led this lech down the wrong path with my feminine wiles. Truth be told, he chased me like a fox at a hunt. I never claimed to be innocent jumping headfirst into the trap, but it takes two to pray, as they say.
I hesitated going to him to unload my guilt, but so wanted to get the whole thing over with, and this is someone who doesn’t even consider herself Catholic anymore. A believer yes, but not with all the legislated bells and whistles.
My first blurt was how I blame God for everything because where the hell is he most of the time. Kids dying, people starving, planes crashing. The environment having the shit knocked out of it with a government who doesn’t care. What could he be thinking, that God.
How’s that for an opening?
He said, none of this is God’s fault. Things happen. How typical. It’s a pity someone else couldn’t hear confessions like your dry cleaner or dentist. Someone more democratic where religion is concerned. Instead of 6 Our Fathers you get a little plaque removed.
My next charming remark was, “Yeah, that’s what you think – look what he did to his own son. Does he just hate kids, is that it?”
How obnoxious was I?
He told me about a book I should read he’d lend me, taking out a small notebook to remind himself to leave it at the Parish House. It might help change my views, he said.
Hmm, I said.
“Life is full of unwanted events, and we just need to deal with them with grace and dignity.”
After saying I hated several people listing them by first name, he blessed me and that was that.
As I got up to leave he said, “My memory’s going so I’m sorry to ask, what’s your first name again?”
This stunned me since we’ve known one other for over twenty years.
“Susannah,” I said quietly.
“Like I said Susannah, life is filled with unwanted events, like old age.”
He said this with a great deal of grace and dignity, so I cut him some slack, then went straight to a bar. I mean, let’s face it, wine is the best part of being Catholic, even if you’re not all that Catholic anymore. There there….it’s okay. Bark a coupla Hail Marys and we’ll call it even.