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-With yourself, my child?
-And... with others.
-With women, my child?
-Were they married women, my child?
He did not know. His sins trickled from his lips, one by one, trickled in shameful drops from his soul festering and oozing like a sore, a squalid stream of vice. The last sins oozed forth, sluggish, filthy. There was no more to tell. He bowed his head, overcome.
The priest was silent. Then he asked:
-How old are you, my child?
The priest passed his hand several times over his face. Then, resting his fore-head against his hand, he leaned towards the grating and, with eyes still averted, spoke slowly. His voice was weary and old.
-You are very young, my child, he said, and let me implore of you to give up that sin. It is a terrible sin. It kills the body and it kills the soul. It is the cause of many crimes and misfortunes. Give it up, my child, for Godís sake. It is dishonourable and unmanly. You cannot know where that wretched habit will lead you or where it will come against you. As long as you commit that sin, my poor child, you will never be worth one farthing to God. Pray to our mother Mary to help you. She will help you, my child. Pray to Our Blessed Lady when that sin comes into your mind. I am sure you will do that, will you not? You repent of all those sins. I am sure you do. And you will promise God now that by His holy grace you will never offend Him any more by that wicked sin. You will make that solemn promise to God, will you not?
The old and weary voice fell like sweet rain upon his quaking parching heart. How sweet and sad!
-Do so, my poor child. The devil has led you astray. Drive him back to hell when he tempts you to dishonour your body in that way-the foul spirit who hates Our Lord. Promise God now that you will give up that sin, that wretched wretched sin.
Blinded by his tears and by the light of Godís mercifulness he bent his head and heard the grave words of absolution spoken and saw the priestís hand raised above him in token of forgiveness.
-God bless you, my child. Pray for me.
He knelt to say his penance, praying in a corner of the dark nave: and his prayers ascended to heaven from his purified heart like perfume streaming upwards from a heart of white rose.
The muddy streets were gay. He strode homeward, conscious of an invisible grace pervading and making light his limbs. In spite of all he had done it. He had confessed and God had pardoned him. His soul was made fair and holy once more, holy and happy.
It would be beautiful to die if God so willed. It was beautiful to live if God so willed, to live in grace a life of peace and virtue and