Absolution — a short story

When I entered the confessional that day I assumed I would be absolved of whatever transgressions I chose to reveal.

From what I’ve been told, Father Charles has never been known to withhold his forgiveness and mercy.

He understands the frailties of human virtue.

He knows about the appetites of the flesh.

In fact, I’ll wager he has surrendered to a few of them himself.

So I expected to be forgiven.

I did not, however, expect to be pitched into a full-blown midlife crisis as penance.

Father Charles, whose last name contains no vowels so it can’t be pronounced except by first-generation Eastern Europeans, is unlike any priest I’ve ever known.

Normally you might expect to find a Catholic priest in his study, poring over ancient biblical texts, chanting over incense, or polishing his chalice.

If he isn’t in church, you expect to find him out and about dispensing communion to the sick and homebound, not up on the roof of the church, where Father Charles spends an inordinate amount of his time.

If he isn’t up there patching leaks or reinforcing the bell tower, he is out back with a chainsaw messing with the vines and the branches, or down in the cellar where it is rumored he brews his own beer.

On Saturday afternoons, though, you can expect to find him in the confessional.

For faithful Catholics who subscribe to the legitimacy of priestly absolution, preparing for confession is punishment enough.

You have to stop whatever you’re doing on a Saturday afternoon—hanging out laundry, weeding the garden, or napping on the couch—to wash up and change into something presentable, not fancy but at least clean.

When you get to church, you line up in the back with all the other sinners and wait your turn.

This affords you plenty of time to prepare a list of your most shameful transgressions, lest you forget how bad you’ve been.

And if your list isn’t long enough, suggesting that you’re too holy for words, you can always throw in a few of the old standards.

Greed, jealousy, and laziness are usually high on my reserve list. Continue reading


Janet Cincotta is a family physician and author.


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