Of guilt and goats: a tale of the reconciliation experience


Shannon O'Connor

Jackie Lawyer seeks the solace of the Lord after committing a crime that has plagued her conscience for over ten years; yet even after confession, she finds no peace. All hope is lost and the paranoia has set in.

With Lenten season fast approaching, I have guilt on my mind. Not just any guilt, mind you, but that deep festering sore known as Catholic guilt.

Having been cursed with a conscience, I try to avoid provoking it. But the human condition is a fallible one, and I fall short all too often. Recent stumbles include walking into the bathroom without knocking (sorry Mom), breaking the handle off of a coffee mug at Anthropologie and walking away at a quickened pace, and convincing my freshman carpool buddy that there’s a pool in the North Building.

Yet these offenses are easy to forgive and forget when compared to the act that has plagued my guilty Catholic conscience for over ten years.

I was six-years-old and at the petting zoo for the very first time with my friend Samantha and her mother. There was nothing I wanted more in the world than to pet the only lamb in the pen. I spotted the charming creature in the corner of the enclosed area and made my way over in a dreamlike state. Then a Grecian Roadblock awoke me. There were goats, lots of them. And they had attitude, lots of it.

I zigged, the goat zagged. And so continued the grudge match with my cloven-hoofed nemesis.

I have long since been regarded as a master of stealth. I narrowed my eyes and cast a furtive glance over each shoulder. Seeing the coast was clear, I kicked the goat with the force of a mid-to-large sized wrecking ball and sent it scurrying off to pester Samantha. As soon as I touched the prized fluffy creature, guilt set in. Worse still, I had been caught.

Apparently my incognito-mode was not quite as efficient as I had hoped––the supervisor had watched the whole horrid scene. She lunged towards me with the crazed look that only an animal rights activist can maintain, and I sought refuge by the side of Samantha’s mother. Fingers were pointed, words hastily spat out. Denial, defense, and further accusation.

It’s all a blur.

Samantha’s mother had gone into full-blown Mama-Bear-Protective-Mode and claimed that a sweet, timid, and kind-hearted child such as myself would never do such a thing––that the mere suggestion of it was unthinkable. She hadn’t witnessed my cold-blooded boot and her confidence in my character only drove the guilt to the next level.

And so I lied. Well, not verbally. I nodded in agreement, the personification of wide-eyed innocence. As the supervisor’s eyes sliced into me, the billy goat came back to munch on the buttons of my coat––and to place a powerful hex on my soul.

Ten years later, I was still consumed with guilt. I adopted vegetarianism and even learned to milk goats in my quest to clear my name. Then, my parish announced that they were going to provide the means for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I had spent a decade keeping my tale between the goat and me, but I was through. When it came time to confess my sins, I gave every last detail of my sob story and begged for forgiveness.

To his credit, the priest listened intently and searched for a deeper meaning. Was I conjuring a biblical metaphor, recalling the ancient Jewish tradition of casting a goat into the wilderness as part of the Day of Atonement? No, I assured him. I really was guilty of kicking a goat and denying the act before God and Samantha’s mom in the Year of Our Lord 2002.

Alas, my guilt remains. God may have forgiven me, but I worry that the curse is unbroken. So if I am ever trampled by a mob of angry goats, you’ll know I had it coming.