Today is St. Valentine's Day but this year, to get to it, you have to go through Ash Wednesday which was yesterday.
What an experience that was.
Not only did I go to Confession, I went to someone else's Confession!
I worked all day and after that I was going to my mom's to make her linguine with clam sauce. Because I was running late I could not make it to the Mass at St. Michael's to get my ashes. Then I remembered that St. Benedict's has constant ashes! They start at 6 a.m. and go until 9 p.m., ashes and confession. God forbid I forget, you know, that I am dust, and unto dust shall I return. So I went.
When I walked in, about 6:30 p.m., there were groups of people all over the church, sitting around chit-chatting. The lights were up. People were laughing and conversing. There was a grand piano in a corner and a girl was sitting at the piano and that made me nervous. You do not think of piano music when you are getting your ashes. There was also this kind of New Age-y harp music playing "Amazing Grace."
This was not what I am used to. I would have preferred that because this was Ash Wednesday there would be a solemn, preferably a medieval, atmosphere.
Well, ashes were ashes. Plus I could get to confession. Since that priest was mean to me I had not been back so now it has been a month.
There were a couple of confessionals open. I saw lights on over the doors. No one was in line. You never know the situation at a new church so I knelt in a pew, watching and waiting. Five, 10, 15 minutes passed. No one entered or exited.
Finally I thought: The lights must mean the box is empty. So I pushed the curtain aside.
There was this girl was kneeling there!
She looked up at me in alarm. I was so embarrassed! I signaled my apology and turned way mortified. This had never happened to me in my life!
By the way I never did see anyone emerge from that confessional. God knows what this situation was, who was taking so darned long, you know?
I ended up at the other confessional. The good news was, the priest was really nice. Insightful, wise and even quoted Latin. I bet he knew who Leonard Pennario was. But I could not contrive a way to bring it up.
After that I went to get ashes. There did not see to be any priests giving them out. They all looked like, ahem, laymen. At first I could not figure the situation out. I kept looking around for a priest. And I thought all those people in the front of the church were just hanging out and talking. But it turned out you got your ashes from these people. I approached one of them, this Buffalo guy in a sweatshirt, and he talked me through it.
I have never received ashes in this fashion. They hand you a piece of paper with a psalm and you have to read the psalm with them and then they give you the ashes. Kind of weird, along with the chit-chat and the New Age music, but so what. God love them for keeping this going all day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Plus I had that warm feeling you get when you get out of confession and it went well and you are just smiling at everyone. So I smiled at this guy and said "Thanks be to God" when I was supposed to, and then I went out with my ashes into the night.
A thousand stories in the Catholic Church, you know?
A thousand stories.