Rites of Passage 1: First Confession

July 20, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Australia, Catholic Church, Family History, Memoir, Religion | 2 Comments

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This day in August 1956, was one of excitement and promise, the culmination of months of preparation at the hands of the Sisters of St Joseph. I would be eight in a few days time, but this day was even more important than that. Birthdays happened every year, but this day came only once in a lifetime. It was the day of my First Holy Communion.

The stress of making our First Confession was over. That had happened the week before. We had sat in the pews at the back of the old stone church – St Paul’s – waiting our turn to go into the dark, wood-panelled confessional box. We’d practiced, but that didn’t make it any easier. There was a central priest’s box, with a confessional box on each side. The shiny wood was dark with age, and the designs carved into the door frames were almost black. The wooden kneeler was worn smooth by thousands of knees, but it was still hard. When the person in one of the confessionals had finished, the priest slid the little door over the grille on that side shut, and opened the one on your side.

Confession child

The real thing was even stricter than the practice had been. We had to kneel and pray while we waited our turn. There was to be no fidgeting whilst we Examined our Conscience. Even though we were used to kneeling, it was hard to keep still. However, Sister Mamertus was there, so we did. I was both glad and scared when my turn came. At practice, when the priest slid the little door open on my side, I’d jumped, even though I’d been waiting for it. I jumped this time too.

We’d been well drilled in what we had to say, but I was flustered at first. Then Father Greely’s voice spoke quietly through the grille.

“Take your time, my child.”

Confessional

Then I was all right and I started the routine, first making the sign of the cross.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession, Father.”

Then I had to list my sins – how many times I disobeyed my parents, how many times I quarrelled with my brother and sisters, or didn’t pay attention in class – I don’t recall what I said. I was so relieved when I could finally say the Act of Contrition. Then Father Greely gave me absolution, told me to say three Hail Marys for my penance, and blessed me, telling me to go and sin no more.

“Thank you, Father.”

Then, his little grille closed and I could leave the confessional box, go to the pews on the other side of the church and say my penance. After that, I could go outside, feeling a great sense of relief that the ordeal was over, and that my soul was pure and white. I had made my First Confession. Now that I was pure, I could make my First Communion.

© Linda Visman

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2 Comments »

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  1. You know, I don’t think I have any comment for this – I really don’t. The whole concept of such ritual is just something I cannot and never have been able to get my head around. I thank somebody up there that my first wife, though Catholic, never went to confession. Some of the things we got up to would have given the priest a heart attack.

  2. […] my first Confession and First Communion were special days that I believed would make me holy. I loved getting holy […]


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