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confession was another great fear of mine. The problem was that I was afraid to tell the
priest my sins, thinking that they were much worse than they actually were. I felt that I
was probably the only or the worst offender of religious rules. I didnt seem to
notice that I was more pious than the other children were, including my brothers and
sisters. I also did the usual childhood pranks, like irritating the nuns who taught
us, which I felt were probably mortal sins as well. The result was that I didnt
confess all my sins and my guilt got worse. I also felt that the sins got worse, though in
retrospect my real failing was taking such religious rules seriously at all.
I remember doing prayers to atone for my little sins, which
seemed like major soul failings at the time. These prayers were called
"indulgences" and allowed us to get rid of our potential punishment after death.
Each prayer would say something like "good for two hundred days in purgatory,"
meaning that its recitation would save a person from that amount of suffering after
My problem was that I couldnt figure out exactly how much time in
purgatory my sins merited. But at least it promised away to eradicate my sins without
having to announce all my dastardly deeds to the priest. Yet it didnt deal with the
greater problem of my few mortal sins which weighed on me and caused much worry and
anxiety. Later the church ended this business of indulgences and no longer prescribed time
off of purgatory for its prayers.