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Hi, My Name is Paprika, and I’m a Recovering Catholic.

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I was raised Catholic, but in a casual way—we went to church, I had CCD, but my parents never made me feel like I was a heinous, sinning little shithead who didn’t deserve the love of Christ. I appreciate that. But then, when I was eleven, I went to Catholic school.

All Saints Catholic. Yes, ALL the saints. They couldn't pick just one.

I was only there for two years; we moved when I was thirteen, and I spent the remainder of my pre-college education home-schooled.

Still, it makes an impression on you. My first confession as a Catholic school student, for example, was especially traumatic.

Totally not the confessional I went to--I found this via google image search. But they all look the same.

So I was sitting there, with this apparent voyeur of a priest, who wanted to know all my sins. I had made a list of those sins beforehand, on loose-leaf paper, but I sensed that he would not be amused by my crib notes. Sins, after all, are supposed to weigh on you. You shouldn’t have to remind yourself what they are.

I was already off to a decidedly unimpressive start. It had been five years since my last confession, and since this was a face-to-face confessional, I had actually gotten to see the judging look on Father C.’s face when I told him so.

I was six when I’d had my first reconciliation. I was eleven now. Surely I had done some terrible shit. But none of that shit would come to mind, and there was a line of students outside the confessional waiting their turn, and the longer I took, the more screwed up I looked.

How many sins can she possibly have?

So I lied. I confessed to shoplifting, to physical fights, to gossip, to pro-choice views. I confessed to questioning the existence of God, and to “making fun of Jesus.” I confessed to sleeping through CCD, and I wondered aloud if President Clinton were just a nice man after all. I confessed to everything I could imagine, and then, to cover my tracks, I confessed to lying.

Father C. prescribed my soul a metric shitton of prayers, prayers I only skimmed. Hail Mary, the lord is with thee, now and at the hour of our death. Okay, one down.

While the abridged prayers played in the back of my mind, I debated the pronunciation of “amen.” There was the always-popular and supremely elegant ah-men, but it gave the impression of tramp-in-training (the only sin, incidentally, to which I had not confessed).  Ay-men was grammatically problematic—why not ay-man? I considered uh-men, but ultimately decided it was the second syllable that was wrong, and settled on uh-min, which means absolutely nothing.

Our father, who art in heaven, uh-min.

When my prayers were over, I stood and looked down at my knees. For the first time I realized that if I wanted to know how badly the other girls had sinned, I could look at their knees. If they were especially terrible, their knees would be flushed deep pink and bear the imprints of wooden kneelers, while the knees of good girls were virginal and unmarked. With boys, well, no one knew. They were exempted from wearing the ubiquitous school girl skirt, after all.

As it turned out, this was our recess for the day. Yes—I had spent my recess lying to God and cheating on atonement. I figured that I was already going to hell, so when our teacher showed us a picture of an “aborted baby,” a grotesque photo of a bloody, third-trimester fetus still in the womb, I was the one who raised my hand and pointed out that there wasn’t any blood at all—the entire picture had just been tinted red.

My teacher just stared at me. I think it was around this time that the Catholic God said, “fuck this girl, she’s a smartass.”

And Jesus was just like, "oh, for the fuck of shit."

And so I transitioned from a sporadic Catholic to a recovering Catholic. The Church is screwed up; unfortunately, it’s aesthetically gorgeous.

Pictured: Aesthetic gorgeousness.

Visually, I remain drawn to it, much like a bug bouncing around inside a lampshade because the light, it is so pretty.

Except for the stations of the cross, because that shit is just creepy.

Father C. went to jail, by the way. Embezzlement.

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About Paprika

Paprika Davis is a perpetually annoyed twenty-something college student waitress who would rather be a squirrel. The lack of commas in the previous sentence bothers her, but her laziness overrides her desire to improve the writing.

7 responses »

  1. I just timed how long it took to say an arf otter and a hell merry. Then a little multiplication told me how long I had to kneel there saying pennance.

    Reply
  2. I hope the number was atronomical–that’s how you know you’ve lived. 🙂

    I do appreciate how easy the Catholic church makes atonement. Did you steal? Well, don’t bother to return the item(s)/reimburse the victim in cash–just tell an outside party! Did you murder? Oh, that’s terrible. You need to say a lot of prayers.

    And now they’ve made it even easier: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/02/09/133618133/catholic-church-oks-confession-app-but-you-still-have-to-see-a-priest I wish I’d had one of these while I was fumbling to remember my sins.

    Reply
  3. I completely made up my first confession (and most subsequent confessions) too! “Um, my mother told me to clean my room and I didn’t do it… and I said a bad word… and I lied about doing my homework?” I mean, they all could have been true, but it was really just blind guessing because I was so weirded out by the priest and by the general concept of what I was doing.

    Funny enough, it was confession that finally tipped my scales from “Catholic” to “screw this noise, I’mma learn to read the tarot.” In my sophomore year of high school I went to confession for the first time in two years (we had to go in my K-8 school), and confessed to masturbating. The priest started talking about breaking the [whichever one is adultery]th commandment, and I had this epiphany that, “wait, this is bullshit. Making myself feel good in a way that affects no one but ME is not the same thing as hurting and potentially putting in danger of disease someone I have pledged love and loyalty to.” And then, I realized, the whole thing was bullshit.

    Which is not to say that I do not have files and files of photos from Notre Dame when my mom and I were in Paris this September. ^_^

    Reply
  4. Oooh, me too. No way in hell was I going to tell a strange adult that I had (masturbated). I made up a list of fairly innocuous sins, and rattled them off. I probably used the same list every week, but they never seemed to catch on.

    Reply
  5. Oh, it’s so good to know I’m not alone. 🙂 And yes, the entire Catholic concept of sin is so full of bizarre contradictions and logic leaps, all leading to the same conclusion–that sex is both icky and secretly titillating. It was so predictable that eventually I just got bored. Everything was subversive, so nothing was subversive.

    I gave up on being good, and I’m very glad, although I’m sure my former teachers would have plenty to say about it. And Father C., too, if he weren’t a convict.

    Reply
  6. I just want you to know, I laughed through your entire post….about covering your tracks by confessing to lying, about telling how much of a ‘bad girl’ other girls were by their red knees, about being drawn to the churches aesthetically pleasing architecture. I too am a recovering Catholic. My experiences with the confessional are so similar, it’s creepy. I remember a few specific confessional experiences: (1)At the Catholic school I went to, they had ‘Confess Your Sins Day” (I don’t think it was really called that, but you get the idea) and so they had 10-15 priests set up ‘make shift’ confessionals all around the church. The priest I was assigned to was in the changing room where the priests and alter boys and girls (surprisingly, girls were allowed to be alter-girls at my school) would put on their robes. Anyways, there were hangers all over the floor from messy priests leaving them after putting on their ceremonial robes. During my confession, the priest leaned over in his chair, picked up a hanger, and started twirling it aroung his finger. NO JOKE!
    (2) This next experience happened while I was in highschool (the prior, middleschool). The highschool also had a “Sins Day,” and as a requirement, we had to go to confessional. By this point, my faith was anything but strong, and what little faith I had told me that the Act of Confession was a crock of shit and just down right creepy. Needless to say, when I told the priest I didn’t want to ‘confess’ anything to him, he asked why. I responded with words along the lines of “This is a crock of shit. You’re fat and creepy. And how could you, an equal sinner, according to the Bible, forgive me of my teenage sins?” Um…I was kicked out of the confessional. Ya….He literally opened the door and screamed at me to get out of his confessional and that no amount of penance could save my darkened soul.

    Talk about the girl with the reddest knees! Everyone in the church just gasped and I was forever known as the-girl-who-was-so-bad-she-got-kicked-out-of-the-confessional.

    Reply
  7. Hahaha, you’re kind of a badass. And yes, the whole confessional experience is fucking creepy as hell–goddamn voyeuristic liturgical bastards. I love that your school had a round of priests on Sins Day, though. Makes it sound like you were a broken sinner on the confession assembly line–like they just put you back together and shipped you back out.

    Reply

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