The congregation recognized him and murmurings continued through the opening prayer.
“What’s he doing here?”
“Do they expect me to confess to him? He's three steps away from God.”
“Well, I’m certainly not going to?”
I started feeling sorry for the Bishop. No one seemed to be paying attention to mass. The man next to me looked in my direction, then shook his head.
“What?” I asked.
“It’s obvious,” he replied in what I’m sure he thought was a whisper. “The Bishop’s dressed like a priest. He didn’t intend to say Mass. They’ve probably been playing cards all afternoon and he’s the only one sober enough for the job.”
“So are you going to him for confession?” I asked.
“Hell, no! I went to school here. Sister Superior had two phones in her office, one to God, and one to the Chancery office. The last one scared me the most, 'cause God forgives.”
Something about the sober theory made sense, as no one other than the Bishop handed out communion. Which was fine because a good third of the assembled didn’t go anyway.
Why not? I didn’t get it.
After Mass, the Bishop set up shop down stage left of the altar in the form of two chairs. He’d removed the priestly vestments and donned his confession stole, then sat patiently waiting for any takers.
No one ventured forward. A whole lot of people left.
I knelt down in the pew, not to pray, but to keep folks from seeing my confusion as I watched them leave. Surely they had reasons for not wanting to confess to the Bishop. Which begged the question, should I walk out as well, and give the Bishop an early evening, or handle my mounting fear, prance on up there and tell the man that my mother adopted a ghost, and that I’ve seen manifestations thereof?
If my heart beat faster or harder I would have fainted.
Well, I figured now or never, so with throbbing veins and sweaty palms I made my way
to the chair.
“Come on up and have a seat, young man,” he said, kindly.
“Thank you, Your Excellency,” I said, sliding on in.
He cringed. “Oh, forget that Excellency nonsense. I’m a priest ready to hear your confession.”
“Seems that the whole parish has forgotten that I’m a priest,” he mused. “Maybe I have too from time to time. But I’m here for you whenever you’re ready.”
“Yes sir,” I said. “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My mother adopted a ghost, and I think I’m going out of my mind.”