This was the third book I did in the Monastery. It is available on Amazon either as a Paperback or Kindle. All paperback sales go to support the monastery while the Sisters have graciously allowed Kindle sales to go to me.

Communal Confession with Owl Head

by Fr. Maurus Kelly, OFM  – Santa Barbara, California

Some of the best days of my priestly vocation were spent with the Indians on a mission in Arizona near the Mexican border. The Indians loved to give everyone nicknames; they gave me a number of them, and one of them was “Owl Head,” since I made priestly visits at odd hours of the night because of sickness or other situations.

One story stands out in particular that shows quite clearly how I lived up to this grand name. In the days before group reconciliation services were popular, I was introduced to the method by necessity.

Late one evening, after I had gone to bed and was peacefully sleeping, I awoke with a start to hear the mad pummeling of a horse racing up to my abode. As I scrambled out of bed to see what was up, I found a young, worried and breathless boy who told me to come quick because his grandparents were sick and in need of a priest.

I quickly got dressed, grabbed my priest kit, and jumped into my pick-up, leaving the boy to follow behind more sedately with his horse. I knew where the village was—way out beyond all traces of civilization on a bare, desert road with sagebrush and cactus. It took me some time to get there, but when I arrived at the small adobe hut, barely discernable in the darkened landscape, I made my way inside.

It was a typical Indian home with thick adobe walls that made up one large room in which the mother and father, kids and kitchen lived on one side, with a big double bed shoved against the wall on the opposite side in which resided the grandparents. They were both too ill to get out of bed. The room was lit by a single coal lantern that flickered warmly in one corner and cast dancing shadows against the opposite walls. Both grandparents wanted to confess and receive anointing of the sick. I knew that in their weakened condition there was no way they were going to be getting out of the bed to give the other any privacy. Nor did it occur to the rest of the family to go out into the dark night to give them any, either.

If they wanted confession, fine, get on with it, I told myself. First I listened to the elderly lady’s sins while her husband propped himself up weakly on one elbow to listen. After every sin his wife confessed, he would nod his head up and down and say, “Uh-huh, Uh-huh,” in total agreement as to what she had done. I rather think he might have reminded her if she had forgotten anything. I gave her absolution and then turned to the elderly man while now his wife propped herself up on her elbow to listen carefully to what he confessed. The same thing happened in reverse. Every sin he confessed, up and down would bob her head and she would say, “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” in total agreement with every rotten thing he had done. Once I had heard both of their confessions, I then anointed them with holy oil as I administered the sacrament of the sick to them.

Then something beautiful happened. When I gave each of them Communion, placing the Lord gently on each tongue, a very sweet and gentle transformation came over both of them. It was such a profound change that the room seemed to glow with God’s presence.

After I had done all that I could for the sick couple, the rest of the family insisted that I must stay and have something to eat. The rich, good smell of deer meat cooking over the fire had greeted me upon entering, making a pleasant contrast to the stank, burning fumes of the coal lamp. I was hungry and soon was greatly enjoying a big plate of venison and tortillas and enjoying the warm company of the rest of the family. Before I had finished, someone came from another Indian home and wanted me to go to their house to bless someone else. It was still night but “Owl Head” needed to be on his way.