When I moved to Madrid I used to like to check out different churches; there were so many to see. I would wander in and take a look and wander out. Occasionally, there would be a priest waiting in the confessional booth. My hands would sweat as I walked by – fearing that whatever sin I may have committed that day was too grave for absolution.
One day I walked into a church that had lines of people waiting to confess. There were four priests near the alter and the people were getting absolution like they were buying bread. “This” I thought, “is do-able.” I got in line and looked at the architecture as I moved up the line and up toward redemption.
“What to confess?” There was so much: disobedience, lust, gluttony, sloth, the taking of the Lord’s Name in vain….that seemed safest.
I got up to the priest, he was in his thirties, scraggly shoulder length brown hair, Michelangelo-type feet in Birkenstock’s, he made the sign of the cross over me and I just managed to say, “I swear – a lot.”
Then there was a quick release in my chest, and a weird release rose in me, and I sobbed – over swearing.
He reached toward the floor and picked up a box of tissues, “They’re menthol, I bought them by mistake; they can make your eyes sting….so try not swear at them, okay?”
The humanity of confession is what hooked me, that and the quick moment so clean that there is spot wiped off the soul that feels fresher – it could be the menthol.