Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Venial

The paper, folded in fourths, was damp.  "From worry," said the priest, his soft Indian accent resting on the r's.  He was small and slight, dignified in his Benedictine habit, and kind enough to make a joke of the fact that the nervous sweat from her palms had made it impossible for him to write--the pen ink just slid right off.

Since he couldn't write them, he said some things about meditating on the love and mercy of God.  She was still shaking too much, and trying too hard to stop the tears, to take in the words very well.

"None of the thing you have just told me are mortal sins," he had pronounced, a few moments earlier, when his face was still obscured by the confessional grille.  That was when she had started crying.  She had deliberately avoided specifying which ones she thought were capable of sending her to hell, and which not--because weren't they all, at least potentially?  But this kind dark-faced, brown-habited man had said none of them were, not the yelling at her parents when she was angry nor the thoughts about boys, and kissing boys, which she could not seem to help.  None of them mortal.  She was not going to hell.

He left the chapel.  Before her palms could soak the paper through again, before she could finish murmuring her penance, doubts were already swilling at the bottom of her brain.  Perhaps she had not been specific enough.  Perhaps she had made some sin seem less bad than it was, made it seem venial when it was really mortal.  Perhaps she had done so on purpose, and that would mean she had made a bad confession, and that would mean she was going to hell.  She tried not to listen to the thoughts, to say her penance in peace, but perhaps that was a sin too--wilfully to ignore her sinfulness.

If only she could go to confession again.

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