Location: New England, United States

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Our First Meeting

I am eighteen and pregnant. I had never felt so alone and scared. I know now that many young women faced this crossroads from childhood to womanhood, but I remember feeling that I was the only one standing in this dilemma.

What was I going to do? How would I tell my parents? They will be so angry and disappointed in me, and with seven brothers and sisters, it was doubtful that they would help me financially. I was sick with worry and condemnation - my old friends.

Yes, worry and condemnation were my constant companions. The oldest child of eight and raised a Catholic, I was no stranger to worry, condemnation and penance. So, I did the only thing I knew to do at the time, I went to confession.

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was five months ago. I disobeyed my parents three times, I lied four times, I fought with my sister six times and I committed adultery once." Then I waited for the shadowed head behind the screen.

"How old are you?"


"Are you married?"


"Then you could not have committed adultery. You must be married to commit adultery." I am shamed further by my stupidity and horrified that now I must explain my condition.

"I am not married and I had sex with my boy friend." I could not bring myself to admit to my pregnancy. Anyway, I reasoned, being pregnant was not a sin - the sex before marriage was the sin.

"Then you did not commit adultery; you committed fornication." I groaned inside. Fornication sounded so much worse than adultery. We never discussed fornication in my catechism classes.

"Say an entire rosary and sin no more. Now say the Act of Contrition."

As I recited the Catholic Act of Contrition, I felt no relief from my guilt. I made the sign of the cross and left the confessional. Terrified, I scanned the faces standing in line for their turn at redemption to see if they had heard my shame through the wood carved doors of the confessional. Then I slinked into a far off pew to say my penance.

I did not think to bring a rosary to confession with me. I had never committed a sin so grave as to require a whole rosary as penance. In my distraught state of mind, I could not concentrate on the prayers of the rosary. Instead I looked around the great expanse of the sanctuary.

Life-sized statues of Mary, Joseph and others stood in gilded finery. The vaulted ceilings loomed high held by huge beams intricately carved. Stained glass windows depicted the historical saints of the church and at the front of the church a massive cross held our Savior over a marble dais and altar.

All of this splendor did nothing to quell my distress or guilt. I started to speak in a small whisper. "God, I know I did wrong. Please forgive me."

Then God showed up! "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I exhaled all my worry, fear and guilt.

Years of catechism and hundreds of Sunday Masses, yet, this is the first time I had ever met God. Recited prayer, rosaries, confessions; none of these things had ever touched what I was experiencing at that moment. All I did was talk to him, and he answered!

I left the church feeling renewed and hopeful. This was just our first meeting.


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