James Ward goes to Confession

November 3, 2008 at 5:15 am (Fiction) (, , , , , )

The next morning, Christmas day, James awoke and his first sense was a strong awareness of Laura. He felt and smelt her presence around him. He looked at his watch, 9:15, and then he remembered Paul Kirshner telling him about Mass at 10:00. As it was Christmas, he considered that he had better go to Mass. So he got ready and made his way down to the wharf, where the Christopher was docked.


He arrived early and he noticed Paul hearing confessions on a secluded part of the deck. Paul was wearing his cassock with a stole around his neck and seated on an upturned box. The penitent was kneeling in front of him. This scene created mixed emotions in James. His first inclination was to run away. He was in no mood for confession and in his relations with Laura he certainly had no firm purpose of amendment. He was, as he said to Laura later, “suffering with grief about past sexual sins.”


While all these thoughts were going through his mind, Paul looked up after giving a penitent absolution, and his eyes met James’s for a brief moment. For some reason this look from Paul profoundly moved him. It seemed to be a saintly invitation that the nature of his being impelled him to accept.  It was as if Paul was extending a life-line to him. Almost as an automaton, James joined the line of those waiting to have their confession heard.


He kneeled in front of Paul and started his confession:


“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It is about two years since my last confession and I accuse myself of the following sins:

I’ve had sexual relations with a number of women and I’m now carrying on an affair with a married woman. I’m also guilty of self-abuse once or perhaps twice.”


Paul then said to James: “Are you sorry for these sins?”


James answered: “Father, that’s the trouble: I’m not sure that I am.”


Paul replied: “James, the mere fact that you have come to confession shows a desire for forgiveness and at the very least you are sorry that you are not sorry. Your sins are sins of the flesh. You have given in to desires that every man has. This is not to excuse you, but we must all put our lives into a context and perhaps where you have sinned against charity to others, greater sins have been committed and this is where sexual sins sometimes lead us. I’m sure that you are trying to do your best and I have no hesitation in giving you absolution. For your penance say the Our Father and three Hail Marys and now make an act of contrition.”


James proceeded to mumble the contrition: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I resolve with the help of Thy grace, to amend my life. Amen.”


Paul gave him absolution: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”


James answered: “Amen.”


Paul said: “Go in peace.”


James answered: “Thank you, Father.”


James then heard Mass and received communion on board and shortly after the MV Christopher up anchored and went down river to Marienberg.


Excerpt from Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk

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