Los Angeles
January 2002

Dear Father,

Forgive me for I have sinned. I have let people down, I have cheated on my lover, I have left my thoughts and dreams bereft, I have stayed home watching TV when others needed my help, I haven't made any financial contribution to the church, I have cursed numberless times, I have forgotten the words of my favorite prayer, and I haven't attended service for many, many years. Yes, father, I have sinned in manner, in thought and in act.

But I had forgotten that guilt, after all this time, would come back to haunt me. It feels as if I had made a pact with the devil: The mean one would free me from religion's all-powerful guilt and I, in return, would sin; sin as much as I could to his pleasure and delight. The devil's revenge, however, was not to take my soul to rot for all eternity in some dark corner of hell, but rather to give me back my guilt after a while. And now here it is—that naughty little thing guilt—back to weigh on my chest, heavy as an anvil, bitter as an old man, sour as spoiled milk.

I'm sorry father for not having had the courage to say these words to you personally. But I thought a letter would suffice, would make it all the more explicit for you and, hopefully, leave no trace of doubt or ambiguity about the sins I have committed and, in many cases, have failed to repent in due time, if ever. I hoped my redemption would come all the more swiftly if optimum communication had been properly established.

To be true, I haven't made a confession since my first communion 22 years ago, and I did it then only because my grandmother dragged me to the church by my ears. It sounds more dramatic now than when it happened. She was a sweet woman my grandmother. You would have been proud of her, father. She was an exemplary catholic, a woman of true and pure faith and, as you could assume, strong resolve and stern demeanor when it came to religious matters.

I was living in a foreign country when she died and I did not come back in time to attend her wake. I never took a last look at her, and now all I have are memories, and this lingering feeling that I might have let her down somehow. If indeed there is a God, Heaven and all that, she would certainly be there now, wouldn't she father? Watching over us, silently guiding us through the many tortuous paths that life quietly but surely puts ahead of us every day.

Father, I wish I had made this confession earlier, but pride kept my hand steady and my pen at bay. You must know how difficult it is, don't you? Revealing your secrets and most concealed thoughts to a complete stranger is no easy task after all. I mean no disrespect, father, but talking about my guilt and my sins is rather uncomfortable because it, by definition, implies that I have done something wrong, when deep inside I, in effect, feel like I have nothing to regret.

Is this the paradox of faith, father? What if I told you that I have very little, if any, faith left in me? Would it make it easier for you to forgive me and quicker for my guilt to go away? Would it make it easier for me to be absolved and redeemed and freed of sins and cleansed to attend the next party in Heaven? Or, conversely, am I beyond redemption for my lack of conviction in the church?

Oh, father, how can I trust Men and Their religions when so many mistakes—outright atrocities, really—have been made in the name of God? How can I separate the wheat from the chaff? How can we reconcile the contradiction of doing something bad by pretending that such a deed is in the name of something good? I wonder if we will ever, as human beings, be able to live in a world that sees things beyond good and evil, a world without contraries, a contrastless world.

Come to think of it, father, that's what I should really pray for, don't you think? Not for the forgiveness of all my sins for they now surely seem too shallow and too small to matter to anyone.

Even to God.


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