Stuffed Scarves in Her Mouth

I grew up in a little town in Alberta/Saskatchewan, Canada. Our town’s main street is the border between the two provinces. Although my dad and his construction crew built our church, St. Anthony of Padua, our whole family of seven kids proudly took credit for the work.

During the 1950s and 1960s our parish was blessed to have Father Bernie Gorman as our pastor. He was a most gentle and loving man, and a great friend to my parents. He often came to our house for dinner and was a regular at their Saturday night card games. Everyone went to him with their problems; no matter how busy he was, he always had time for everyone. He was loved.

For a ten-year-old child to go to confession and admit imperfection to a great man like Father Gorman was a real chore. Because he was the sweetest, nicest person and a man of God, it was very difficult for me to think for one moment that he wouldn’t somehow think less of me when he saw me again at—horror of horrors—my parent’s home!

So, after worrying about this for an entire week, I came to the conclusion that the thing to do was to devise some sort of scheme wherein the holy man of God wouldn’t recognize me in the confessional.

Although it was our routine to receive the sacrament of reconciliation on Friday evenings, I waited until Saturday afternoon to go to confession that week. This was part one of my deception plan.

As the little sliding partition opened in the tiny confessional and the familiar silhouette of our dear pastor came into view, I put my mouth to the several silk scarves I had nabbed from my older sister’s dresser. This was part two of the plan. I disguised my voice in the very best way possible, and carried on with my confession.

Looking back on the scenario, I remember that the sins I had committed were things like sneaking a piece of candy during Lent and thinking bad things about my brothers. Through it all I coughed violently and tried to talk in a very sophisticated, albeit hoarse whisper, through the layers of scarves that were stuffed in my mouth.

Father Gorman was his usual kind and loving self as he listened intently. He said a few words of encouragement and gave me my small penance. After he had said the words of absolution, he added, "By the way, Denise, if you don’t mind, would you tell your dad I’ll be ready to go fishing around four o’clock?" I swallowed, coughed, and choked, "Okay, Father!"

Mortified, I slunk into the darkness of the church to say my penance, wondering if hiding behind silk scarves while having a coughing fit in the confessional could possibly be yet another sin.

Denise R. Buckley Comox, British Columbia, Canada