It was Christmas morning; my father was holding my trousers while he imitated a barber and made snipping noises with scissors. Even though they were my Sunday best trousers, they had patches on the knees and backside; a product of being a member of the poorest family in our neighborhood.
My father was not about to give me a haircut, he was cutting a hole in my pockets.
“Well son, this Christmas, we can’t afford to buy a gift; this is the best I can do.” He had a devious smile as he cut away sections of my trousers’ pockets before handing them to me with a sly comment. “Here’s my gift to you, Merry Christmas son, and I wish you a prosperous New Year.”
“You won’t be disappointed,” my father said, as I put the trousers on, “anyway it’s the noblest thing I can do for you, seeing as we are poor and its Christmas.”
I was fourteen years old and I didn’t have any money, so there really was no inconvenience to having holes in my pockets. But when I put my hands in there, I got an enormous surprise, much to my delight. I discovered that if I touched myself there, I was getting funny feelings that made me shake all over and took my breath away.
But I was a Catholic boy and the clergy reminded all the young lads at mass that pleasuring oneself was a mortal sin and we would have to confess our sins to a priest or risk going to hell if we die with that awful sin on our souls.
I decided I would go to confession to cleanse my soul and stay good for as long as I could until temptation got the better of me. But at the beginning I didn’t know how to tell a priest what I was doing, I didn’t know of any fancy words to describe the act. On the advice of a pal I decided I would tell the priest that I committed adultery.
The confessional consisted of three compartments, The priest sat in the middle cubicle which was closed completely except for a little window that he opened and closed as he listened to the sinners confess to all kinds of wacky transgressions such as: drunkenness, adultery, and anything else the human is capable of committing.
After hearing a sinner’s confession the priest would give absolution and inflict a penance he deemed worthy, to gain the repentant atonement for his sins. People who confessed to having committed grievous sins would receive harsh penances from the priest and those owning up to mild sins would only have to say a few Hail Mary’s.
After a long wait because of the crowds, I finally entered the dark confessional. I waited for the little window to open and tried to memorize everything I had to confess.
Suddenly, I heard a strident voice, “OH, no! Not you again,” it was Father Murphy; He had a glint in his eye when he said it. “And what kind of trouble did you get yourself into this time”?
I said, “Bless me father for I have sinned,”
That is what Catholics are taught to say before confessing one’s sins.
Then I began, “Father, I committed adultery.”
“You did what?” Father Murphy nearly fell over in his seat; I think he was having a heart attack because he bent over so that I couldn’t see his face. When he reappeared he asked, “Who were you with when you committed adultery?” “I was alone Father,” I replied.
Father Murphy regained his composure and spoke sternly, “Well son I advise you not to commit adultery any more. It is a terrible sin, and you can go to hell if you die with it on your soul.
Father Murphy then told me to say the Rosary and do the Stations of the Cross for my penance; I thought that was a bit harsh. I was hoping he would give me only three Hail Mary’s.
As I was leaving the confessional Father Murphy advised, “If you are tempted to commit adultery again, I suggest that you try to keep your hands in your pockets instead.”
I nodded meekly, “Yes Father, Will do.”