The Sacrament of Reconciliation, Joy & Relief

I was nine years old when I experienced the events that led to the first major moral crisis of my life. For a number of weeks, I’d been riding my bike over to a new housing construction site and collecting ceramic tile remnants from the trash piles around the various homes to complete a mosaic table top that I’d been designing. On one of those forays, a security guard for the construction company had stopped to question me and check out what I was doing there. Ordinarily, this would not have seemed very unusual, but unfortunately, as I have come to realize as an adult, this young man was also a pedophile. After engaging me in conversation for some time, he then proceeded on to other things, and ended up using the isolation of the site, as well as the convenience of the empty, fairly completed houses, to molest me on several occasions. Like many children, I did not mention what had happened to my parents, as he had made sure to threaten me with all sorts of dire consequences if I ever told anyone what we had done; but I was very troubled by the memories and shame of what had taken place.

The following year, I started fifth grade at a new Catholic school where the Franciscan Friars of the Santa Barbara Province ran the neighboring parish as well as administering to the spiritual needs of the students. It was shortly after Sister had taught our class the Ten Commandments that I began to have turbulent conscience problems about what had happened. I began to suspect that I had surely committed the very serious and grave sin of adultery, since that security guard had told me that he was married and had even shown me pictures of his wife and young toddler daughter.
Every two weeks, the students went to the nearby parish church for confession; so at the very first opportunity after my horrid suspicions arose, I’m afraid I shocked the poor friar priest in the confessional by asking him, point blank, for a detailed definition of the sin of adultery.

There was a moment’s pause before Father asked me how old I was. When I replied “ten” he carefully asked me what had made me ask this question, and I replied that I thought that I had committed it!

Once again, Father gently probed and asked me to explain a little further. I told him that I had done some very shameful things with a man who was married, and the way the religious sister had talked about the Sixth Commandment, I was beginning to suspect that maybe that was what had happened, and if so, then I must be in the state of mortal sin.

Father became quite solicitous toward me and after drawing out a few more details about what had actually taken place he became very indignant about the adult involved. He told me that there was absolutely no way that I as a ten-year-old child would have been able to fulfill the conditions nec- essary for those events to have been a mortal sin, but that the perpetrator, (the one who had done this to/with me) was the one who had done so.

He asked if I had told my parents and encouraged me to do so. He then assured me that I was blameless and innocent in everything that had hap- pened, which finally put my mind and heart at peace. He then heard the rest of my confession, gave me my penance (three Hail Marys) and absolution.

I cannot put into words the joy and relief that I experienced that day, but the compassionate, gentle wisdom, concern, and assurances of that Franciscan priest, and the grace of the sacrament had a very profound effect and impact on facilitating the beginning of healing, for which I have been extremely grateful.

Los Angeles, California