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Forgive Me, Father

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Lindsey sat in a wooden chair in the hallway, trying to figure out why the hell he had mouthed off to his Latin teacher, Father William. He was a teenager who acted out sometimes, like most boys his age, but he tended to stay out of trouble at school. Discipline was taken very seriously at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Lindsey had no intention of being on the wrong end of a paddle.

But today he’d been feeling rowdy, and when Father William asked him whether or not he’d been paying attention, his attitude overrode his brain function and he’d simply replied, “No, Father, not really.”

He’d immediately been called to the front of the class, where he was required to hold out both his hands in front of him. Father William rapped the knuckles of both his hands with a ruler several times, hard enough that it was difficult for Lindsey to hold back the tears stinging his eyes. “Return to your seat, young man, and report to Father Angelus directly after the final bell.”

Lindsey walked back to his desk on wobbly legs, humiliated from having his hands smacked in front of everyone. A few of the kids clearly wanted to snicker at him, but none of them wanted to suffer his fate, so everyone kept quiet. Lindsey knew what it meant to report to the principal after school, and he was terrified.

Walking down the hallway after the final bell, his friend Wesley snuck up behind him and smacked him on the ass.

“What the hell, Wes?”

“Just getting you warmed up, man. Hear you’ve got a date with Father Angelus’ paddle.”

“Shut up”, was Lindsey’s reply, and he left Wes standing there smirking as he made his way to the principal’s office.

Which is where he was at that moment, sitting on a hard wooden chair in the hallway and keeping his shit together (just barely) until he started to hear the muted sound of the paddle acquainting itself with another unfortunate student behind the door. He tried to block out the noise but it was no use. He put his head in his hands and waited.

Finally, he heard the door open and watched as a girl one grade below him stepped out into the hallway, crying and practically running down the hall toward the doors.

“Lindsey?”, he heard a voice ask, and he turned around to see Father Angelus standing at the door.

“Yes, Father.”

“Come inside.”

“Yes, Father.”

They got into the office with the door closed and Father Angelus repeated Father William’s accounting of what had happened earlier in Latin class. Lindsey shame-facedly agreed that it was accurate.

“You’ve got an excellent behavior record, Lindsey. I’m sorry to see you here today. Let’s hope it’s your last trip to my office.”

“Yes, Father.” Did he really have nothing else to say? Well, no, if he didn’t want to make things worse, he didn’t need to say a single other thing unless he was asked.

Which he was.

“So, let’s start with the sacrament, shall we? I know it’s a bit early in the week but there’s never a bad time for reconciliation.” He nodded toward Lindsey and the boy automatically responded in the way that he’d known his entire life, making the sign of the cross and speaking.

“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It’s been four days since my last confession. I accuse myself of being disrespectful to Father William today. For this and for all the sins of my past life, I ask pardon of God, penance, and absolution from you, Father.”

“Thank you, Lindsey. Your penance will be ten strokes of my paddle. I expect that will discourage you from committing this particular sin again.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Stand and put your elbows on the desk, boy.” Lindsey did as he was told, his arms shaking and already almost in tears just from the fear of the paddle he’d never seen but had heard about.

Father Angelus stood and Lindsey got his first glimpse – a wide wooden paddle with a thin handle – as the principal moved behind him. “Be still now, accept your penance.”

With no further warning, the paddle connected with his ass through his navy uniform pants, exactly where his butt met the backs of his thighs. Lindsey held in a whimper and kept his position, but by the fourth stroke, he was trembling, his forehead having dropped down onto the surface of the impeccably neat desk. By the sixth, he could no longer hold back and he groaned as the tears started to fall. Father Angelus was nothing if not efficient, delivering each swat in exactly the same place, quickly, one right after the other with no hesitation. By the time the last one landed, Lindsey was crying openly but had managed to stay still for all of it, and felt proud of himself for having done that.

Great. Saturday he’d have to confess to the sin of pride.

Father Angelus moved to the side and ordered Lindsey onto his knees, which he did without hesitation.

“Continue, boy.”

In a shaky voice, with tears and snot all over his face, he spoke automatically. “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.”

After a moment, Father Angelus said his part. “May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require.” Without looking up, he knew the Father was making the sign of the cross. “Thereupon, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

“You may stand.”

On unsteady legs, Lindsey stood, looking his principal in the eyes and somehow managing to thank him. Father Angelus handed him some Kleenex (clearly, he needed to keep plenty of them on hand considering his job duties). “Go on home now, Lindsey, and I don’t want to see you back here again. Got it?”

Once again, Lindsey managed to strangle out a “Yes, Father.”, before he turned and made his way out of the office and down the hall as quickly as possible. He didn’t want any of his friends to see his tear stained face, he just wanted to get home and feel sorry for himself and try to find a way to mind-control himself into never making another smart-ass comment to any of his teachers ever again.