I apologize, I really should have brought my camera with me, so I could share it with you. But now it remains in my mind and something I can summon whenever I want to remember something holy and good.
This morning, my son, Patrick, made his First Penance at St. Joseph Church. Patrick was nervous, which is understandable given he is only a 2nd grader. The children were given a choice of which priest would hear their first confession. Who else would Patrick choose but his friend, Fr. John.
The priests did not use the confessionals. Rather, they positioned themselves on each side of the front of the church and had simply two chairs facing each other, but at a distance from the pews so that nothing could be heard from there.
Fr. John had the side of the church near the Baptismal font. The timing was such that the morning sun came through the stained glass window of St. Joseph and bathed his area in golden light. I watched the children before Patrick go up and thought, what a beautiful sight, as Fr. John leaned forward to hear their earnest little confessions that concluded with lovely smiles from both priest and penitent at the end. But before that moment, the children sat ramrod straight in the chair, their hands clasped tightly before them. As I said, to be expected - for a 7- or 8-year-old, this was very serious business.
Then Patrick went up. He sat down in the chair and I expected him to follow suit as the rest of the kids. However, his foot came up to rest on the chair and he settled back, as though he and Fr. John were just going to shoot the breeze. I watched him speaking and while Patrick was not smiling, he was looking Fr. John in the eye, speaking directly to him, gesturing with his hands, and all in all seemed quite at ease with the whole process. Fr. John never stopped smiling broadly and they stayed up there longer than the children before. It was such a beautiful moment and I wondered, all kidding aside, if this was a vision of the future, only it would be Fr. Patrick hearing a child's First Confession - or, is a crusty old Monsignor Moneypenny going to find out he has been assigned a brand-new priest, fresh out of the seminary, who will stroll in and high-five him, just as Patrick does now when he sees Fr. John? It was clear watching, though, that Patrick was not taking this moment lightly and the two of them, with the golden light around them, made me catch my breath.
Afterwards, Patrick came back to the pews. He recited a prayer of forgiveness that he had been taught and together we prayed a Hail Mary. And then he said, "Oh yeah, I have one more thing I have to do." He leaned over and hugged me tight.
God is great, indeed.