The Thin Red Line

by T.P. Wilkinson / July 11th, 2017

When I was a young boy completing catechism in preparation for my first communion, I had to learn the proper procedure for auricular confession, a primary ritual of Roman Catholicism.

At that age I did not really understand what I was supposed to do or really why. In fact, catechism, save for the fact that it offered about two hours leave from regular school instruction on Thursdays, would have been a torture except that I liked my teacher. I was just never good at memorising things and learning long texts like the Apostles’ (Nicene) Creed posed an insurmountable challenge. However, a first confession must be performed if I was to get my first communion—a sort of graduation ceremony in which we got to wear something like priestly or academic vestments (and I always liked getting dressed up).

In preparation for the confession we had to learn things like what “sin” is and why our sins have to be forgiven before we can take the host (a wafer that tastes like plastic, perhaps calculated to avoid cultivating carnivorous appreciation of the deity). The concept of sin is at best abstract for an eight-year-old. Although there was a kind of primitive devotion in our family—my grandmother was very faithful to the church calendar—I cannot recall sin or morality playing much of a role in our home. Things were handled very pragmatically. A few rules and some decorum were stated and if you violated these there was summary…

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