Growing up as a Catholic, I learned the Act of Contrition from an early age. It was and probably still is the prayer one would say at the end of confession.
“…because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell…”
These words scared me to death as a small penitent sinner…”the pains of hell.” I wasn’t sure what hell was but it didn’t sound good.
“Oh, how bad I must be!”
To say the least, the experience of confession as a small Catholic child was one the Protestant kids my age didn’t experience. How lucky they were.
The fear that was instilled in this small child about a place called hell stayed with me for, well it seemed like forever. Then I realized my focus had been on one short phrase in this learned prayer of contrition; the phrase that surrounded me with fear.
The phrase that followed eventually allowed the fear to go away.
“but, most of all because they offend Thee, my God
Who are all good and deserving of my love…”
From the “pains of hell” to an “all good God” was quite a leap for this little mind…from fear to love. So now I wondered if there really was a place called hell or was it made up to scare little kids like me. It must be those priests and nuns. Why would an “all good God” do that to a little kid?