August 23, 2010 at 9:58 pm 4 comments

“Tomorrow is Confession. Be here on time. Everybody must go. Do you all remember what you have to say? Let’s review.”

My only knowledge of Confession was what I’d seen on TV, and my exposure to TV had been limited. I knew it was a Catholic thing to do, and I knew you did it to come clean of all the bad things you’d done. I knew you went into a wooden box and talked to the priest through a screen so he couldn’t see you, which I thought was a bit strange, and I knew the priest wasn’t allowed to tell anybody what you told him. I guess I knew a fair bit about it, but I had no idea how to actually do it.

Sister Mikaela (pronounced “Mih-guy-lah” in the Palauan accent) was telling us all about it in Grade 6. “Who can tell me why we go to Confession?” And some good Catholic answered, “So we can get forgiveness for our sins”. Sister Mikaela praised the correct student and then went on to go over the exact things to say when you get in the wooden box and when to make the sign of the cross. She made sure everyone did it perfectly. Just about all the kids in the class already understood this process and had only forgotten one or two steps. I was one of maybe five non-Catholic sixth graders, but I was the only non-religious student in the school.

My dad was brought up Catholic and my mum was brought up kind of Anglican, until her parents decided they’d had enough of church and all its accompaniments. I was brought up to appreciate and accept all religions, to be a kind, honest person, and to follow the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). I was encouraged to choose my own religion one day, if I so desired. I was exposed to the Bible and its stories, but I was never christened nor baptized, anointed nor blessed.

I had no problem with my upbringing or beliefs. I felt no need to conform to the specifications of one creed over another, and I knew that the most important thing was to strive to always be a good person. And bloody hell, I was 10 for goodness’ sake! How was I supposed to know who or what to believe in?!

Well, very few people understood this, and even less accepted it. I don’t know how many times classmates asked me, “What religion are you?” “Do you believe in God?” “Are you Christian?” “Why don’t you go to Church?” “What do you believe in?” I was made to feel very weird for not being strictly Catholic or Protestant or Seventh Day Adventist or something. So you can imagine my trepidation when I had to tell Sister Mikaela (a nun of all people) that I wasn’t Catholic and wasn’t sure if I should go to Confession. I didn’t think I’d be allowed in and thought for sure that if I did go, and the priest found out I wasn’t a member of his faith, that I’d be forever condemned and turned into a pillar of salt or something.

Well, Sister Mikaela took it fine and told me it was okay, I could just stay home. She gave me a toothy, betelnut-red smile and said, “Okay, Elilai.” She was the only teacher who ever called me Elilai. I liked her.

So to my amazement, I got out of Confession and I was still alive. I’d had terrible fears of being forced to go and making an absolute fool of myself. I didn’t know what to say, if I should pray there, sit, stand, or kneel. What if the priest told me to say or do something right then and there, and I had no idea what he meant? But, that didn’t happen. I was okay. I’d made it through (or should I say past) my first Catholic milestone.

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Entry filed under: Confessions of a (Non-Catholic) Catholic Schoolgirl. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Malcolm  |  August 24, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Interesting blog entry! I had an almost identical experience and upbringing (minus the tropical island part!). It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I didn’t have to be devout to be a good person and I didn’t have to be religious to be spiritual. (Do you ever feel conflicted or guilty now or are you secure with the path you’re on?)

    • 2. sarahmunn  |  August 24, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Thank you! Every now and then I catch myself wondering if I’d be happier being categorized as Catholic or Buddhist or something else. And the answer is generally no. Sometimes I think society would be happier if I was, but I have to be what suits me. I have yet to come across a religion that fits me and makes me want to believe in it in full faith, without question. If I do, I’ll join it!

  • 3. Alisha  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Love the blog Sar! You made some really good points. Above all I was happy the nun didn’t pressure you. I find it very wrong that society is quick to pass judgment on those who don’t accept one belief system or another. I don;t mind believing in God, because I do, but I think that if people truly subscribed to the Golden Rule and paid less attention to being all sanctimonious, the world would be a better place.
    btw Elilai is a second name of yours? It’s lovely!!:)

    • 4. sarahmunn  |  August 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Thank you Alisha! Glad you like it.
      This is the first of a little series of posts about my “Catholic Experience”. Funny anecdotes, and I think a lot of relatable points. I agree with you 100%! If people did as you said, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, all these ideas, which seem to be common sense in a way, and other simple suggestions, often don’t work because so many people are stubborn, selfish, and greedy! Hopefully, enough people who are the opposite can unite and make gradual differences over time. Here’s to that group!!!

      And yes, Elilai is one of my middle names. If you read the “Behind the Name” section on the blog, it explains the name, blog title, etc. Thanks for the compliment! 🙂


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