Having spent a year in Turkey, without practical access to a Catholic Church, (Ed. reminds me of Mass online in Dammam surreptitiously in my hotel room) the author, a convert to Catholicism, returns to the US and to a VERY expensive reckoning with the AZ DMV in attempt to regain his driving privileges…
-by Max Lindenman
“…on my first Saturday back in the Valley, I decided to get them absolved and receive Communion for the first time in 13 months.
The church had an open confessional, and the priest turned out to be one of the most benevolent-looking men I’d ever laid eyes on…
After breezing through what I considered the small stuff, I recounted the tongue-lashings I’d dealt out while in the grip of my awful temper. Whenever I recalled these moments privately, or for the benefit of friends, I wilted with shame. They seemed to me not only sinful but contemptible, evidence of a low and ill-formed character. The priest gave no sign of holding such an opinion. With no change in his cuddly affect, he offered a few general pieces of advice and absolved me.
“For your penance,” he said. “I give you one Our Father.”
I felt exactly the way all those Bible verses say I should feel: ransomed, redeemed, suddenly debt-free, welcomed back into the bosom of the family. It made me so giddy that I forgot how to begin the Act of Contrition. The priest pointed to an end table between us; taped to its surface was a piece of paper bearing all the words from start to finish. After I got through it, the priest said, “God bless you.”
I offer these two anecdotes side by side not because they’re so wildly different, but because, in nearly every respect, they’re so similar. In each case, an authorized representative of a legitimate power helps a man atone for some past transgression.
Both representatives strive, above all, to be helpful…The only difference is that one form of penance pinched, memorably, whereas the other was memorable for not pinching at all.
From time to time I hear from people who believe that penance should pinch, that redemption dearly bought should also be dearly paid for…
…the near-occasion of my explosiveness is conflict with my fellow humans. I lack the creativity to stick it to them in ways not covered by the Sermon on the Mount. My approach follows the same phases as Field Marshal Haig’s – either cower behind the parapet or charge. It produces more or less the same results his did. In the best of all possible worlds, I’d be a desert hermit. In this one, I’ve got to earn a living, which means seeking terms with all manner of disagreeable people.
There’s an old story about a prudish actress – I forget who – who installed a swearing jar on the set of one of her films. On the first day of shooting, her more spirited co-star – I want to say Ava Gardner, but I could be wrong – took one look at the thing, dropped in a twenty, and extemporized a prose-poem in high modern Billingsgate. Jesus has dropped a twenty in all of our swearing jars, but there’s a catch. When we transgress, we have to pay Him. By holding down the payment to a token, the priest ensured I could afford to go on trying.”
Act of Contrition
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve,
with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins,
to do penance,
and to amend my life.
Prayer of Absolution (priest)
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, You have reconciled the world to Yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mercy, Lord! Mercy!