Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I just skipped Mass. But since we are only obligated to attend once a week, and I will be there Sunday, is it really a sin? Have I broken any of the commandments? Do I even have to mention this in my next confession?
It started with a mad dash from the hallway in front of the church. Every Friday, just before lunch, all fourth and eighth graders lined up, single-file, to march in for weekly Mass. I looked around.
Is there a teacher in the hallway? No.
Can I get around the corner of the building before one comes back? Probably.
Will someone ‘tell’ on me? Maybe.
Is it worth the risk? Yes, if it works.
A deep breath in, hold. One last look to the end of hall then out the glass door and around the building. Whew, exhale. Time stood still. Gasping for air, heart pounding in my ears, I waited for a shrill, nun-like voice to call me by my full name. But the next sound I heard was the processional hymn as the priest followed the altar boys down the center aisle.
I’m pretty sure someone else tried it first; I was not an original thinker back then. I would never have considered skipping an actual class like English, or Math or even Religion. Aside from being obvious that you were missing, it would have been sacrilegious, pun intended. My father was a school teacher; school was not optional.
Once I believed that Mass would go on without me, I started to walk home for lunch. So many things could have gone wrong. I walked as slowly as I could. I not only took the long way home, I went around the block to approach the house from the other direction, avoiding the kitchen windows on the front.
I quietly opened the door to the garage. I was still early. If I waited too long, my younger brother would catch me in the garage and he would ‘tell’ on me. If I didn’t wait long enough, there would be questions and I would probably make up a lie. That would be a sin. It’s not exactly in the top ten (commandments), but it would probably fall under number four: honor your father and mother.
Decades later I would look back on this break from being a rules-following, goodie-two-shoes kid as an act of fearlessness. It was the first indication that I would question my religious upbringing to become a recovering Catholic.
But on that particular day, I sat on the milk box, fidgeting, restless, rehearsing my next confession.
Bless me Father, for I have sinned…