Some of the more interesting things that happen in a parish are in the confessional. In the darkness of the booth there are tears, sighs of relief and occasionally expressions of joy. .There are also sobs of regret , feelings of shame , relief and guilt Many struggle to overcome the challenges of choices that have been chosen or will be made. It is a place where literally persons reveal their most intimate secrets in the hope of gaining grace. However, it is also a place where there are occasions for the confessor and hopefully the penitent to smile
On a crisp winter school morning two weeks before Christmas Sister Eucharia had arranged for her second grade class to have their confessions heard.They had all received their first communion in May but the experience was still daunting for some of the children. It was at precisely ten o.clock and when Father Sal arrived at his confessional all of the students stood and said “Good Morning Father.” Sal returned their cheerful greetings and entered the confessional. None of the children had killed anyone or lusted after their neighbor’s husband or wife so the litany of so called sins was not earth shattering. One child confessed that he was always making noises with his back. After a few seconds Sal realized he was referring to farting.
The biggest challenge of the morning was that one of the boys was so nervous about the experience that he had wet himself.Embarassed he did not want to leave the confessional. Sal told him to stay there ,and went out and told Sister Eucharia what had happened.He inquired if there was any way she could get some dry clothes and take the children back to school so that the boy could be dry and unashamed .Sister Eucharia was a delightful understanding person and she immediately gently knocked on the other side of the confessional and asked the little girl to return to her pew. She then told Sal that she would invent a story about the boy not feeling well. She winked at Sal and said”This won’t even be a venial sin on my soul.”
After a short period of time she returned with new underwear and pants . Father Sal instructed the boy to change his wet clothes ,but after he was dressed he still refused to leave the confessional. because the entire floor of the confessional had a puddle of urine..He feared that the next child would know that he had peed and would tell everyone what had happened. He had no way of knowing that the good sister had told a white lie to protect him. When he returned to school with different pants the presumption would be that he had thrown up. Sal asked him “What is your name son?”;.the boy spoke barely above a whisper, “Timmy “. Ok Timmy when I count to three you and I will both go out and they won’t know who did it”. Timmy returned to school and no one was the wiser.
Another confessional episode occurred because the news that Holy Trinity had a priest that could hear confessions in Italian became common knowledge, and almost every week Sal had more than an occasional Italian speaking penitent. Sal’s had the ability to speak the Tuscan dialect which had over the years been selected as the official language of Italy. Many of the dialects spoken in the major areas of Italy and Sicily were very different and at best difficult to understand. Sal’s father, who had been raised in a small village at the top of the Cammarata. mountains in Sicily, spoke a version that was a combination of Italian,Greek and Arabic.
On one Saturday evening an elderly Italian woman confessed her sins in what Sal thought was a dialect from the Bari area. He barely understood about half of what she said. He blessed her and in Italian told her that God loved her, and she should say three “Ave Marias”.There was silence, and she did not leave the confessional. Again she began to speak and Sal could not understand why she was going through the same list of peccadilloes. When she finished he repeated” please say three”Ave Marias”;’ thinking that this time she would say thank you and go her merry way .There was still no movement to leave the confessional. Like before there was only silence, and then once more time she went through what Sal thought was her list of sins. He honestly thought her sins could not be so terrible, and there was great doubt that she was confessing to be a serial killer. So again with great patience Sal said” good night Signora,God loves you and please just say three Ave Marias.”
Sal thought little of this, but it was the custom in the parish to stand in front of the church on Sunday mornings to greet the parishioners before and after the Masses. One of his favorite people Antoinette Mone was laughing hysterically as she greeted him. “ Good morning Father. Last night my mother came to you in confession because she knew that you spoke and understood Italian. I gather you had trouble with her Calabrese dialect.” Why do you say that Sal inquired?” Laughing even harder she said”My mother told you she has bouts of gas and feels the urge to reliever herself when she goes to Mass. She asked you what she should do and you advised her to say three Aves’”. That did not make sense so she repeated herself twice”. Sal let out a roar of laughter, and once again was reminded never to take himself seriously, Sal was sure that story made the rounds of many Italian dining rooms that Christmas.