A Catholic Monthly Magazine

From the back pew: The back nine, and tidying up the scorecard

Mark SteeleMark Steele, who describes himself as the most ordinary of Catholics, writes:

Some months ago I received from an old motorcycling days’ Guyanese colleague now resident in Canada, a wonderfully written piece with a golfing flavour called ‘The back nine holes’ which served as a motivation factor for this latest effort. It is actually linked to a quote by Clint Eastwood the actor who wrote: ‘To me life is like the back nine in golf – somehow you play better on the back nine. You may not be stronger but hopefully you are wiser!’9 Hole Pearly

I am not a golfer but what was written applies well to those of us in our later years and reminds us that irrespective of whatever recreational pursuits we indulge in, indeed in life generally, many of us are in the closing periods of our lives and we should enjoy them and treat them as quality time while paying cognizance to the reality that we are perhaps near the end of our game. The clubhouse and the final hole could be just ahead, and we should tidy up our act and ask God the Father to forgive the bad parts, the instances where we kicked the ball closer to the hole and broke other rules. Look upon it as a sort of tidying up of the gear and the scoresheets of matches played in each of our lives before we meet our creator who will reveal to us our final score.

College schooling by the Jesuits in my case was different from today. Looking back I can well remember one if not two priests at St Stanislaus College in Georgetown, British Guiana, in the mid-fifties, adopting the ‘hell fire and damnation’ style even in Sunday Mass sermons in the Cathedral, the choice of words and the delivery so threatening that I am sure some people left afterwards looking behind them, some even fearful of instant retribution, and ‘confession’ became an occasion to be dreaded, certainly if heard by those priests.

Having said that, it was a wonderful school that afforded me many happy memories.

Today it is called ‘reconciliation’ but I believe it still does not wear well with some -- the very act of baring one’s soul of often the most personal indiscretions to a virtual stranger can be very difficult. I now accept the need to cleanse the soul occasionally and also rely on regular rosaries as further plea opportunities. In short however, the need is still there to say sorry and to seek pardon particularly if we are on any of the ‘back nine’ holes and our time to do so is getting shorter.

The priest really doesn’t have to say too much. People are seeking to celebrate forgiveness, knowing that what they are asking pardon for was wrong. After all, that is why they are in the confessional of their own free will!

Life is an experience given us and we should try to live it well but I don’t believe its exit should be feared let alone should reconciliation be. Surely if we believe that God is forgiving and is not a God of vengeance, we should go to confession without fear and with confidence that he will forgive us.

Is it not a wonderful feeling to have a forgiving friend like Jesus?

I certainly believe so! 

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