The other week, I and a handful of fellow parishioners found ourselves squirming in a slow-moving line for Saturday afternoon confession.
Some of the discomfort was, of course, due to our own sins, but a good part of it was due to the all-too-audible admissions of an earnest teenage girl, who recounted for our parochial vicar at elevated volume almost every infraction she’d committed for the past seven years.
Those of us on the aisle side of the confessional door tried to contemplate the closest Station of the Cross, fiddle with keychains and check our text messages — anything to avoid hearing the young lady’s transgressions.
Her voice finally dropped, and the priest (whose speaking tones were also quite robust) issued her penance: to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries.
A few seconds later, the door of the confessional flew open, and the teen addressed the entire group of those waiting:
“Does anyone here know how to say the rosary?”
The gentleman next in line silently fled into the confessional, perhaps fearing that the girl might remember a few more sins and resume her session. Another penitent suddenly sneezed.
But one woman stepped forward, took the girl by the hand, and led her to the Fatima shrine, which was stocked with a full basket of plastic rosaries and “how-to” guides.
For the next quarter of an hour, this parishioner patiently instructed the girl in the recitation of the rosary, entwining the glow-in-the-dark beads around her slender fingers, teaching her Hail Marys and mysteries, and encouraging her to spend fifteen minutes each day contemplating the pivotal moments of our faith’s story.
The teen eagerly followed, her bell-like voice echoing as she mouthed, perhaps for the first time, the prayers I myself so often rushed through in distraction. For this young lady, each phrase was repeated with the enthusiasm of one still trying to grasp a new-found joy. Unfettered from seven years of sin’s shackles, she delighted in the lightest and sweetest of chains: the humble beads that, when followed in sincerity of heart, bind us more closely to Mary and the Son to whom she longs to lead us.
As I knelt to fulfill my own well-deserved penance, I thanked God for the gift of a girl whose confession resounded not only through our church, but in the hearts of those who had witnessed love’s liberation of a soul — and for the gratitude of a child who, once lost, had found in the rosary a sure path home to her Mother.
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