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5:46 a.m. - 2002-03-22

FORGIVE ME PEOPLE, FOR I HAVE SINNED

I have a confession to make.

When I was a young boy, I was raised in the Catholic Church in a small town in Illinois.

I loved that church. I loved everyone that went to it and looked forward to the weekends when I could go to church and be with the people I loved in the place that I loved.

When I turned six years old, I became old enough to be an altar boy.

For those of you who aren't Catholic, altar boys are young boys who get to assist the priest in his duties during mass. We do everything from light the candles before mass to assist in serving communion to ringing bells. It was a pretty big deal to be an altar boy at my church and there was nothing I wanted more than to be an altar boy.

Well ... one thing.

...I wanted Father Sheehan to accept and love me.

He always seemed rather distant with me. He would cut up and cajole with the older boys, but me, being the new kid on the altar, I didn't get the same attention from him that he paid the other boys. I wasn't allowed to light the candles because he was afraid I'd burn the place down. I have no idea why I wasn't allowed to help serve communion, other than the fact that I was a husky young lad who he probably didn't trust around the communion wafers.

It...I...he...there's no easy way to say this, so I'll just blurt it out and be done with it.

...Father Sheehan never abused me.

Oh boy, there it goes. That just opened up a flood of memories.

How I wanted...neigh...how I yearned for Father Sheehan to teach me the forbidden ways of Catholic love. Alas, he avoided my nether regions as if they belonged to a leper.

I remember trying to entice the handsome priest. I'd try out different hairstyles, hoping he'd notice and comment that they made me look older and more mature. I'd always "accidently" wear robes four sizes too small, accenting my young Catholic buttocks. When it came time in the service to genuflect, I'd genuflect seductively, bending down on one knee and crossing myself, spending ample time drawing little imaginary circles on my chest with my fingertips while trying to meet his eyes. If I had to pour the wine in his chalice, I'd always pour just a little more than needed, hoping he'd get drunk off the blood of Christ and approach me in the altar boy's changing room after church, asking me to "ring his bells" real good.

Nothing ever happened.

This non-abuse went on for years. Although I liked girls, I was strangely attracted to Father Sheehan and wanted nothing more than to share a hot shower with him and let nature take its course.

The feeling was never reciprocated.

As the years went by, I'd casually mention my lustful intentions to the other altar boys who would look at me as if I just vomited a live cat up.

This was actually my secret plan to try and find out which ones were being manhandled by the man of the cloth on a regular basis.

None of them were.

This made me ache even more to be the first one. To go to school on Monday and say "He touched me!" with a grin plastered on my face as all the kids gathered 'round to hear my tales.

But apparently, it wasn't meant to be.

When I turned 10, my family moved away from that small town. I turned in my altar boy robe after my last service and saw Father Sheehan in his office, reading the Bible.

I decided to bite the bullet and go in there. If anything was ever going to happen, now would be the opportune time.

"Father Sheehan?" I said, knocking lightly on his door.

"Yes, Nephew Bob?" he said, looking up from his bible with a blank look on his face.

"I ... I ....well..." I stammered. "I was just wondering...it's my last day here and all and ...I was just wondering ...is there any way that you could .... I dunno....could you tickle my ass with a feather and call me 'Sally'?"

I remember the look on his face like it just happened yesterday.

It was the same look the other altar boys gave me when I'd talk about my lust for the man. The whole "vomiting a cat" thing. Apparently it was a popular look in the small town.

He ordered me to get out of his church, to never come back and to spend every waking moment for the rest of my life saying the "Hail Mary" in my head and begging Jesus to give me back my tainted, dirty soul.

I was hurt. Almost devastated, but not exactly. Somewhat dejected, but not really. Kind of like going to Dairy Queen and wanting a peanut buster parfait and finding out they're all out of peanuts, so you have to settle for a chocolate shake.

Hurt. Yeah. Hurt was a good way to describe my feelings.

I never saw Father Sheehan again and with time, my desires to be groped by a man of the cloth faded away and were replaced by desires to have Gene Simmons' tongue shoved up my ass while playing an air guitar in front of 10,000 screaming fans.

And now, I see these stories on television about all these priests who are being arrested for taking advantage of young children and I just want to grab a soapbox, climb up on it and yell "NOT ALL CATHOLIC PRIESTS ARE LIKE THAT! MOST ARE GOOD, HONEST AND LOVING PEOPLE WHO WOULD NEVER HARM A FLEA! PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE ALL PRIESTS BY THE ACTIONS OF A FEW CORRUPT ONES! GOD BLESS AMERICA! AND GOD BLESS FATHER SHEEHAN!!!"

...But...as luck would have it ... nobody makes soapboxes anymore. At least none sturdy enough to hold my fat ass.

So remember...as these stories unfold on television, for every evil priest out there, there are millions who are decent men with good hearts and open souls.

I should know.

My priest wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole.

And I'm still living with that grief today.

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