Friday December 21, 2012

PITTSFIELD

I got an email from a college friend a few weeks ago: "Enjoy reading your [columns]. Especially those that involve your personal humiliation."

Well, thanks Mike. So, here’s my gift to you.

When I was a lad growing up in Adams, one of the busiest Saturday afternoons during the holidays was church -- most specifically attending confession -- the week before Christmas.

My mother or father would drop me off at St. Thomas Church in the morning, and I would usually walk home afterward.

That was the plan a certain year which I concede I don’t specifically recall. But I was young.

I recall walking up the steps of the church and opening one of the big double doors.

What greeted me was a long, long line of parishioners waiting to report their sins. Which wasn’t entirely unexpected. Christmas was a big Communion Mass.

I walked into the church. Incredibly, the first guy in line was my friend Mike Morey. His parents must have dropped him off at dawn. Anyway, God bless him, he waved me to go in front of him. I began to walk toward the front of the line, but a number of older boys, in high school, began waving me, silently, to the rear of the line. With menacing looks on their faces.

OK, OK, I whispered. Don’t get nervous.

So I walked to the rear of the line, which extended almost to the altar. It was clearly going to be a long wait.

And about five minutes later, it was exacerbated.


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I began to feel the need to go to the bathroom.

Even five minutes later, the line had grown exponentially. It was now curling up to the altar and snaking down toward the side entrance. If I got out of line to use the bathroom, I was afraid I wouldn’t be allowed to get back in my spot.

So I decided to try to hold on until I got out of the confessional booth.

I won’t try to build the suspense. I failed. About three people from the front, I just peed my pants. I didn’t react as the whole thing happened. Just another day at confession.

I got to the front of the line. Now, I was confronted with another problem. Was this a sin? Was urinating in church against the laws of God? The act seemed somewhat disrespectful to my parish, as I saw it at that point.

But I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure.

But I was also certainly not going to tell this to the priest inside the confessional. If it were a sin, I risked, in my mind, some kind of loud remonstration in front of a lot of people. If not, however, maybe some higher power would be angry if I wasn’t honest with my priest.

Ah, man. I was really struggling that afternoon.

So I kept my mouth shut. The sin of pride, I guess.

The confession and subsequent penance was not a huge deal, despite my wet, right pants leg.

But oh, that walk home.

It was about 25 degrees that day, if I recall correctly. Below freezing, certainly.

Within just a few hundred yards, my pants leg froze like a popsicle. It was really uncomfortable.

I can remember feeling incredibly sorry for myself most of the way home. I tended to blame cruel fate a lot in those days, before I acknowledged my obvious inadequacies. When I stumbled home, I tearfully described my ordeal to my mother. She, of course, was incredibly sympathetic, as she always was when I screwed up. She dried my tears, got my pants and the rest of my clothes off and tossed me into a hot shower.

In a few minutes, all was well.

God bless her, too.

Derek Gentile is an Eagle staffer. You can
follow him on Twitter at @DerekGentile.