Wednesday, October 6, 2010

At the Confessional

This evening I was surfing the internet and found an interesting piece of article. It was how to make a good confession.

To my non catholic readers…. Confession is a process where a catholic goes to a priest and tells him about the sins committed by him/her. It is a belief that Catholics should confess at least once a year. So the Catholics have to examine their conscience to see if they have committed any mortal sins or venial sins. The examination of conscience goes like this…..”

1. Have I ever failed to confess a serious sin or disguised it? [Only if I go for confession can I say this]
2. Have I been guilty of irreverence for this sacrament by failing to examine my conscience carefully? [I think till date I must have made less than 5 confessions. So I have never made a good confession]
3. Have I failed to perform the penance given me by the confessor or disobeyed any of his directions? [Always!!!]
4. Have I neglected the Easter duty of receiving Holy Communion or failed to confess my sins within a year? [It is years since I went to a confessional]
5. Have I any HABITS of serious sin to confess first (impurity, drunkenness, etc.)?
6. Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life? Have I denied my faith?
7. Have I placed my trust in false teachings or substitutes for God?
8. Did I despair of God's mercy?
9. Have I avoided the profane use of God's name in my speech?
10. Have I broken a solemn vow or promise?
11. Have I honored every Sunday by avoiding unnecessary work, celebrating the Mass (also holydays)?
12. Was I inattentive at, or unnecessarily late for Mass, or did I leave early?
13. Have I neglected prayer for a long time?
14. Have I shown Christ like respect to parents, spouse, and family members, legitimate authorities?
15. Have I been attentive to the religious education and formation of my children?
16. Have I cared for the bodily health and safety of myself and all others?
17. Did I abuse drugs or alcohol?
18. Have I supported in any way abortion, "mercy killing," or suicide?
19. Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, and lazy?
20. Have I forgiven others?
21. Have I been just in my responsibilities to employer and employees?
22. Have I discriminated against others because of race or other reasons?
23. Have I been chaste in thought and word?
24. Have I used sex only within marriage and while open to procreating life?
25. Have I given myself sexual gratification?
26. Did I deliberately look at impure TV, pictures, reading?
27. Have I stolen anything from another, from my employer, from government? If so, am I ready to repay it?
28. Did I rashly gamble, depriving my family of necessities?
29. Have I spoken ill of any other person?
30. Have I always told the truth?
31. Have I kept secrets and confidences?
32. Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone to whom I am not married?
33. Have I desired what belongs to other people?
34. Have I wished ill on another?
35. Have I been faithful to sacramental living (Holy Communion and Penance)?
36. Have I helped make my parish community stronger and holier? Have I contributed to the support of the Church?
37. Have I done penance by abstaining and fasting on obligatory days?
38. Have I fasted before receiving communion?
39. Have I been mindful of the poor?
40. Do I accept God's will for me?”
[Courtesy: Internet. I was very lazy to type the entire thing. Being lazy is a sin according to the Catholic beliefs]
If one is to examine ones conscience this way, everything that a person does is a sin. There are certain things which are crazy and some thrash. For example take the 9th one…. “Have I avoided the profane use of God's name in my speech?” I have heard charismatic priests use the name of the God in vain. Every time they forget what they have to say, they yell their lungs out, “Praise the LORD, Alleluiah.” I don’t think others do as much as these priests.
Now take the 12th one….” Was I inattentive at, or unnecessarily late for Mass, or did I leave early?” How long can you expect a person to be attentive during mass? It is during mass that people update the latest news of the parish. It could be gossips, or politics or the boasting of parents about their children’s education. Isn’t it so monotonous to watch the same old boring face of the priest with his mono-syllable voice and his constant yawning at the altar week after week??? No human being can fully concentrate on the one and a half hour mass.
The seventeenth one says….” Did I abuse drugs or alcohol?”

According to the gospel of St. John ,

"Chapter 2

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 (And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come."5 His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus told them, "Fill the jars with water." So they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter." So they took it. 9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."

It is clearly given that wine was served during the wedding at Cana. Drinking excessive of wine does intoxicate a man or woman. If wine could be consumed, then how come it is a sin? Remember Jesus made wine and served it to people. Which is a greater sin…. to make wine or to consume it???

The 30th test of conscience is….” Have I always told the truth?”…Truth is disturbing. One is never to say disturbing truths. Truth may be beautiful, but all truths are not beautiful. How can, not being truthful be a sin?
As I was going through each and every examination of conscience I felt that the entire human race were sinners. When we ordinary people committed small crimes, the nuns and priests committed heinous crimes. (Remember Sr. Abhaya’s murder by two priests and a nun, Jolly murder case by a Protestant priest and Sr. Jesme’s revelations in her book “Amen”)

Why should people confess to sinners? I strongly oppose to that idea. Confession was man-made. No where has Jesus asked his people to confess to a priest. To repent for one’s sins he or she doesn’t have to resort to the crude ways of confessing to a priest. I guess I became rebellious to the practices of the church because of my close association with nuns and priests from my childhood itself. I have seen the in and out of them. So when they preach religion to you or when they ask you to go for confession, it is quite natural to retaliate.

There was a practice in the boarding that the Catholic boarders had to go for confession irrespective of whether one wanted it or not. I being a rebel never liked confessing. I did not like telling a priest of the sins I committed. I always thought that I did not need a mediator to tell my sins to God and ask for his forgiveness. That particular Saturday, our boarding mistress, a Goan nun wanted me to go for confession.

We were asked to wait at the chapel. That nun asked us to pray to God and to examine our conscience. I was their busy watching my friends pray. They were all pious, closing their eyes and praying. I was watching each one going to the priest to confess. My turn was coming. I did not want to confess. Raising my voice against the injustice meant my expulsion from the boarding. The priest was taking a very long time for each student. The queue was moving at a snail pace. It was Sandra’s turn, and then it was my turn to go to that priest. Sandra came back from the confessional and now my turn had come.
I went and knelt down at the confessional.
“Bless me father for I have sinned……Errrh…I don’t remember when my last confession was.”
A pregnant silence prevailed. The priest looked and me and said,

“My cchi….lddd…( a sigh and then silence)…The devil is with you.”

My face beamed. The priest had said the truth.

“Ya, I am kneeling near a devil itself,” thought I.

The priest breaking his silence asked,

“Why didn’t you go for confession all these years?”

Very politely and humbly I whispered,

“I believe in telling God straight, Father.”

Now the priest glanced at me and looking straight into my face( It was then I noticed he had a couple of days old beard with a teeny- weenie nose and eyes ready to pop out from his sockets) said,

“The precepts of the church say that you should confess to a priest at least once a year.”

Was he harsh in his tone??? Still not fearing I looked right into his eyes (While teaching us “The Ballad of East and West” by Rudyard Kipling, Mini teacher had told us that if two people are looking at each other, the person who lowered his eyes first was a coward.). I wanted to prove that I was not a coward.

“Ohhh, that is all man- made, father. Did God ever give the precepts of the church???”

There was another minute of silence. Did he want to give me a tight slap or at least scratch my face for being irritating??? I guess he wanted to do so as he did not have an answer to give me.

He then asked me where my parents were, what they were doing, what my siblings were doing and so on. And then he asked,

“Why did you come for confession, my child, when you don’t believe in it?”

I couldn’t tolerate the priest calling me a “child” when I was already a teenager.

“Sr. Monica forced me to come for confession,” pat came my reply.

“You don’t have to confess if you don’t believe in it,” the priest deeply sighed

I stood up, looked at him and gave him my sweetest smile…. the smile of triumphant Caesar. I had my way out. While I was beginning to leave the priest asked,

“Are you into any kind of affair?”

I shook my head in a very confusing manner. It was left to the priest to make his own guess. What a question to ask a teenager!!!!!!

I gave the priest another smile and walked out of the confessional.

I think I enlightened the priest. He was making the process of confessions go faster. I think he told the boarding mistress not to compel the students to go for confessions. After that we were never forced to make our confession.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My First Poem

This happened when I was a very little girl. I may have 6 or 7 years old then. I remember that it was a rainy day and I was looking out of the door. I was watching the rains falling on a red rose. My eyes were fixed to that flower. I felt that the rose was in deep pain as it was bending so low with the weight of the raindrops on it. I felt the rose would feel the pain. I had earlier seen that a kind of fluid came out when I used to pluck roses. For me it was the blood of the rose plant. I thought I was very cruel to hurt the plant.

This thought kept coming to my mind. I sat near the door and wrote a little poem with my limited vocabulary. It was a little poem on the pain of the plant and flower. I very happily showed the poem my Mum. She read it and laughed and so did my brothers and an uncle of mine. They teased me so much that I went to the toilet and cried. (My ego couldn’t let me cry in front of them.) They kept teasing me over the years and still do tease me when the topic of authors or poets come up.

I cannot tell you the extent of my humiliation I went through. I wanted to run and bury my head in the sand and die there. I did not want to face any of the people who read the poem. I thought I had written something bad. I decided never to write again. At times thoughts came to my mind and I did put it in writing but I made sure that no one read it. I used to write it in my personal diaries which were always under lock and key.

I always think that it was very wrong on my mother’s part to laugh at that little poem of mine. Did she ever think of the trauma that I went through???? Did I ever have the talent to write or was it nipped off at the very bud stage itself???? I don’t know…..

Till date I have never given the link of my blog to any of my siblings or to my family or to any person who knows me personally. That hurt that was inflicted on me hasn’t healed so far. Every time I think of it tears well up in my eyes. There are certain things in one’s life which can never be forgotten how ever hard you try to forget. The humiliation and hurt that I got from my first poem will remain in my mind as long as I live.