The Confession
Posted on October 21st, 2019

Laksiri Warnakula

Rev. MP (I opted for the initials to keep anonymity) was feared by even the tough fisherfolk. He was short and stocky with a complexion, which was quite fair by any standard and made his roundish chubby face turn red when he was angry. My uncles said that he was a Monsignor and was probably left in charge of a medium-sized church in a small parish by the bishop of the Diocese, knowing his reputation of being a no-nonsense cleric with no small temperament. 

Now on my way to the ‘Confessional’, where Rev. MP sat, waiting to hear his parishioners’ confessions and then absolve them of their sins, which he could do as he became a temporal representative of God after his ordination as a priest.

With a pounding heart and a giddying head, I finally make it to face Rev. MP. He sat inside the ‘Confessional’ with his head bent as if he was in prayer.  He blesses me as I kneel down on the pedestal that ran along on the side of the ’Confessional’. His face was only inches away from mine with a partition in between that had an intricate design of lattice work. I could see his face, only as a collection of pale patches separated by wooden strips on the lattice with little gaps in between and I am sure he could see mine too as a vague little roundish shape speckled with alternating little shades of dark brown and light brown.

I launch into the feared recital cautiously starting off with minor sins or ‘sulu pau’ (in my opinion, of course) such as hitting Frank that robust for his age troublemaker in my class across his face stopping him straight away as he menacingly advanced towards me with clenched fists. Or pinching Didi so hard that it must have hurt him so much that he couldn’t even scream and instead made him empty his bladder right in the middle of the church floor as our flock of little boys squatted and listened to the sermon. The news finally reached the principal or ‘Loku iskola mahaththaya’ and the reward for hurting Didi came in the form of caning by him as I stood on the little stage facing a crowd of my school mates, who seemed very amused and thrilled by the whole spectacle. By the way I must give it to Didi that he didn’t report it to any one and it was only few others, who witnessed the scuffle and reported it to the teachers with no malicious intent though, I am sure.

Now moving further away from ‘sulu pau’ and towards not so ‘sulu pau’ (in my opinion, once again) such as picking few coins that my grandfather left on his table and then forgot all about them, thanks to his failing memory. And, I, on the other hand, couldn’t forget the sight of those oil cakes (konda kewum) that were tantalisingly sitting in a glass cupboard at Peter ayiyas’ little boutique and my grandfathers’ forgotten little change was indeed very helpful to me in securing a couple of those sweet delights. 

Around fifteen or twenty minutes later, including few minutes of a probing- interrogation as to why I skipped that particular Sunday mass,  I am back kneeling down in front of the altar saying the prayers, usually ten ‘Hail Marys’ and five ‘Our Fathers’ or so as penance for my sins. Rev. MP probably thought that it was good enough as penance this time, for this lot of sins of a child, whom he knew was still lying to him even when he was in the middle of the ‘Confession’, for fear of admonition and now was stammering rather excitedly as he tried to explain why he couldn’t attend that Sunday mass.

I am sure he took the above fact into consideration too, when he ordered the number of prayers to say in penance. You couldn’t fool Rev. MP. He could recognise a lie from miles away, even when it was still in infancy, a tiny nucleus of an idea in your mind just beginning to take shape. And when the liar was a ten year old child, well, you can guess! Finally, it’s over and having finished my prayers and I run back to the playground to join my friends.  

Lastly I must make myself absolutely clear here as far as the objective of this article is concerned. It is written with a slightly amusing slant and a modicum of humour and is only a reflection on those long-gone years of my childhood.

All my folks have been Catholics for a few generations and as someone, who has been brought up amongst them, I know that the ‘Confession’ is a sacred religious rite (Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation) and is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. So to all, who might see this in a different light, please accept my sincerest apologies. Poking fun at this religious rite sacred to all Catholics was the furthest thing from my mind, when I wrote this.

The incidents and the people mentioned here are not fictional but were very real once upon a time, which was many years ago. And some of them are certainly not amongst the living now. Though they all come and visit me now and then, regardless: vague shapes emerging from a misty past that keep losing clarity and contour as years go by.

Laksiri Warnakula

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