Of course we remember everything that ever happened to us.
Sure we do. We can easily make a concerted effort to forget,
And successfully forget from Levels One through Eight, but
You remember, somehow—at the cellular or molecular level
Perhaps, where shame and embarrassment are in cold storage.
The things you most want to forget are the things you cannot.
You can say, as I have, that you have no memory of that evil
Minute when you lied or cheated or dodged responsibility or
Worst of all pinned it on someone else; but of course you do.
One sweet thing about being Catholic is that you can politely
Ask for forgiveness, and be granted forgiveness—I mean, te
aren’t those the two most terse glorious words ever?
But the crucial part of the sacrament that we don’t talk about
Is the next part, the part after you leave the church. You walk
To the river and while you are pretending to watch for herons
You envision each person against whose holiness you did sin,
And to each you apologize, and ask for forgiveness. Some of
Them are long gone from this world but not from the Infinite
Mercy who remembers all levels and forgetteth not a sparrow.
You are absolved not when a man says so but when you have
Asked, with every fiber of your being, to be forgiven, to walk
Home clean, to start again, to be possible. What we really ask
For in the sacrament of reconciliation is to be a question mark
Again, to be a verb, to be not what we did but what we might
Yet be able to do; a map of the unknown, an unfinished song.

Articles by Brian Doyle