It was my freshman year at Fordham Prep. I was enjoying the school so far, with new classes, new teachers, and a brand new setting from the Catholic school I spent 8 years in. As we freshmen made the way from our own class to the gymnasium for the club fair, I asked my friend Chris for a piece of gum. I must have been chewing like a cow, because immediately as I walked into the gym a teacher approached me.
“Let me see your ID.”
Suddenly this tall priest was asking for my ID.
If RoboCop had been a priest he would have looked a little like this guy.
My heart was racing, I didn’t know of any punishment for chewing gum. I ended up getting a point for the gum chewing, it was a small penalty but points can add up and serve you a J.U.G. (Justice Under God) punishment.
Anyway that was freshman year.
Fast-forward a year and the same priest who got me in trouble that day became my sophomore Religion teacher. My anger towards him faded away as I made sure not to get another point for that year.
The priest, Fr. Thomas Benz, S.J. turned out to be one of my favorite teachers as I became more used to his style in the classroom. He challenged all of us boys (it was an all-boy school) both academically and spiritually.
No different from any other guy my age, I was driven by hormones. At that time I was convinced that no priest knew about sex, so why even bother talking in confession about lust or pornography?
It was a closed case in my mind, priests knew nothing about sex.
It must have been a class where we guys were talking about sex before class began, and Fr. Benz walked in on the conversation. The talk abruptly ended.
I remember thinking, ‘Here comes the out-of-touch priest”.
Before the bell rang for the period to end, he addressed the whole class,
“Just remember guys, don’t say something with your body that you can’t say with your heart.”
I immediately dismissed it, but as I entered my twenties that advice guided many of my decisions.
I’ll be the first to admit that I went down my own path of lust, but I had to eventually realize for myself that spilling everything in Confession is the best remedy to battle sexual sin.
I look back now and realize that Fr. Benz did know what he was talking about. I saw him years later when I was exiting a train and he was getting on. I never had the time to thank him, but I guess he was just doing his job. And I’m glad I was there to hear his advice, even if I initially dismissed it.