List of Deeds

By Jon Hillenbrand In Poetry


The Truth will not reveal itself to the idle mind.  We must sometimes engage in things which we might find uncomfortable, the least of which may be the admission that we were previously incorrect about something.  Concurrently, this sometimes uncomfortable journey may bring us to a bridge we have to cross.  And it won’t be as easy as answering these questions three.  This chokepoint will stop any further progress on our journey of knowledge, yet giving up at this point may make the whole endeavour pointless.

I’m at such a bridge.  As some of you know, I’m taking a class to learn more about Roman Catholicism.  Most of what I’ve learned so far is different from what I was “taught” as a child, and unfortunately I’ve come a preliminary finding that my earlier education in religion was bunk.  Back in the day, I’m sure many found my tirades annoying, yet some of the people who stuck it out and stayed friends with me through these times have seen me transform from an uninformed blowhard to a slightly more informed quiet person.  I’ve figured out what many before me have also figured out: the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.  So the fears of my old friends that I will return to the annoying habits of “Christian Jon,” as some of them called me, are unfounded.  I can no more return to that state of mind than I could uncrack the dam of ignorance I’ve since flowed past. 

Anyway, back to my bridge, not to mix metaphors.  So one of the things that I’ve been putting off is going to confession.  For those of you who don’t know, there’s a great feature of being Catholic.  If you commit a mortal sin, it’s no small deal.  Especially if you die.  Once you die, basically your options are frozen.  There’s no going back.  There’s no “post-mortem apology” that’s going to save you.  And worse than any punishment, at least to me, is that even if it seemed like a small dalliance on Earth, once you die, you might more clearly realize that your mortal sin was an act of defiance, a statement that you know more than God, that you don’t need God, etc.  And if it turns out that God exists and everything you’ve learned and experienced up to this point is miniscule compared to what you could be learning or experiencing, that will really stink.  Plus, you’ll be cast into Hell, not as a punishment, but because you chose that route while on Earth.  You basically said, “Screw it, I’d rather be in Hell.”  And if Hell and eternity exists, that’s really going to stink, not just because Hell will be terrible, but because you will have fooled yourself into a falsehood, something you’ll never be allowed to forget, with the impossibility of ever going back.  What torture. 

OK, that’s not the great thing I was referring to.  The great thing is, if you confess and ask for forgiveness before you die, poof, you’re forgiven.  Just like that.  Of course, you have to mean it, and that could be difficult for smaller things.  But if you are like me, and you have some larger things you really regret and want to get rid of, you can.  So that’s pretty cool, if it’s all true.  Again, as in my last post, a lot of this is taken on faith.  But like all journeys toward knowledge, a certain amount has to be taken on faith.  You just can’t get anywhere otherwise.

So what’s my big problem?  Well, frankly, the confession.  I last time I can remember going to confession was maybe pre-junior high.  Now, I’m under the impression that confession was mandatory all the way through 8th grade, but I seem to remember that they stopped checking to see if we had actually gone.  There were no ruler-weilding burnout “teachers” (intentionally in quotes) to watch us.  They used the last few years to treat us maybe like adults.  So I took that opportunity to stop volunteering for punishment, which is how I viewed confession back then.  And now, years later, when I see confession for what it might be, I need to know how much of the last 22 or so years to focus on.  I assume I should try to remember everything and confess it all, just to be safe.

If you had to tally up everything bad you did for the last 4/5th of your life, what would that list look like?  And what sort of process would it be to come up with that list?  I plan to talk directly to a priest when I confess, rather than go during one of those “mass confessions” where 40 people line up and enter the confessional one at a time.  I’d hold up the line for the rest of the people which might then lead to their downfall and ruin (since no one knows when they will die, and some could die moments before their own confessions).

So I have a task before me.  This is part of my journey toward figuring out my life.  But I guess the end result will be great.  And honestly, I’d like to unburden myself with some of these things I’ve done over the years.  If they really can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven, maybe this list of deeds will bring me one step closer to who I want to be inside.  We’ve got it good here on Earth.  We can go back.  We can fix some of this stuff, if only there’s still time.

What do you think?