Path to Possible Redemption
Growing up, religion was encouraged but not pursued within my family. We would go to Sunday mass at the awful hour of 7 A.M., and I would attend CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) after school, but we were far from virtuous Catholics. Yet we still did what was expected of us within the religious community.
As a child, I dreaded attending church and CCD. I often feigned being sick to avoid going to mass, but I could never avoid going to the afterschool program. Every Tuesday, we’d spend hours after school being taught about how God loves everyone, how you need to confess your sins to go to heaven, and how to be a good Catholic. These principles were lost on younger me. There were so many discrepancies between the things I was being told there, and what I was taught in school. I was slowly becoming disengaged from the religion I was being taught, but I still couldn’t escape it.
My real detachment came at nine, when we were introduced to the sacrament of confession. One night, we were taken into the church and told that we needed to confess our sins so we would be redeemed in God’s eye. We weren’t given an option, we were only told that this would be happening. We were lined up in the church’s lobby and coached by the adults on exactly what to say to the priest… “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been x day since my last confession…”
Panic set in as I waited in that line, attempting to memorize what I was supposed to say. I remember it being agonizing. What sins was I supposed to confess? I was only nine. I didn’t kill or hurt anyone. I told white lies like all kids do, but surely that wouldn’t damn me to hell. I did what I was told, but apparently that wasn’t enough.
Inside the booth, I sat in a dingy foldable metal chair, and repeated what was told to me. The priest corrected my stuttered mistakes and asked what I needed to confess. And in that moment, instead of being a good Catholic, I lied, I made up whatever sins I might have committed (i.e. stealing pudding from my sister and lying to my parents). I only told a few sins; I wanted to make it believable but not earn any judgment. He listened to me, and once finished, told me my way to redemption: say five Hail Marys and five Our Fathers. God would forgive me if I did that.
Leaving that booth, I felt ridiculous. The adults led me to a statue of Mary and Jesus that I was meant to pray before, where I would find redemption. Kneeling, I thought about how absurd this concept seemed. At nine years old, I was supposed to act as if I’m a criminal and beg for forgiveness for the untold actions I committed. I left that night changed, and perhaps for the better. I never finished those prayers, nor do I ever plan to.
Art by Serena Y. Cheng