January 3, 2013 Leave a comment
Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal:
Here I will tell a story that I suppose is rather personal but what the heck, today’s not a bad day for the personal. Yesterday I went to St. Patrick’s for confession and mass, to start the year off on the right foot. Walking through the cathedral—it was jammed with tourists taking pictures of statues and architecture and also, and with some startling excitement, of the regular New Yorkers in the pews taking part in the noon mass—I remembered something I experienced there last summer, at confession.
I add here that I like going to confession; I always find it quenching or refreshing or inspiring. Usually I go at my local church. But sometimes if I’m walking by St. Pat’s and it’s confession time I’ll go right in, because the great thing about St. Pat’s is that in terms of priests you never know what you’ll get—a gruff old Irishman from Boston, a mystic from the Philippines, a young intellectual just out of seminary in Rome. Once I think I heard, through the screen, the jolly voice of New York’s cardinal. But whoever I get always seems to say something I need to hear.
Anyway, last summer I’m at St Patrick’s on a weekday afternoon and I go to the confessional area and stand on line. In the confessionals at St. Pat’s you kneel in a small, darkened booth and speak through a screen. You can sort of see the shadow of the priest on the other side.
The door opens and I enter and kneel. I outline my sins as I see them, share whatever confusion or turmoil or happiness I’m feeling. Then I was silent, waiting to see what bubbled up. What bubbled up was a persistent problem that was spiritual at its core. We talked about it, and then the priest—American accent, perhaps early middle age—said, “You wouldn’t struggle with this if you understand how fully God loves you.”
There was silence for a moment, and then I said, “Actually, Father, I always have trouble with that one.”
Here I thought the priest would gently explain how wrong I was to doubt. Instead he said, “Oh, we all do! All of us have trouble with that.”
I said, “Even you?”
“Yes, priests too, the love of God is something we all have trouble comprehending and believing.”
This struck me with force.
And then suddenly in the silence, through the screen, I saw a light. It grew and glowed in the darkness, it moved. A miracle? I cleared my throat.
“Father, did you just open up an iPad?”
Yes, he said, and we started to laugh. He keeps particular readings there that might be helpful with certain specific questions. He’d like me to read some verses when I get home.
I’m sorry, I said, I don’t have a pen and paper, I may not remember what you say. Wait—I’ve got my BlackBerry. “Tell me chapters and verse and I’ll email them to myself.”
And so he scrolled down and called out readings—the letters of St. Peter the fisherman, of St Paul—and I thumbed away sending emails to myself.
It was so modern and wonderful. Genius technology enters the confessional in a great cathedral in 2012.
“And God saw the light, and it was good.”