Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Lisa & I both have daughters preparing for their First Reconciliation and Communion sacraments this year. My niece will make her first Reconciliation this week. Even though she’s been preparing through her CCE class for the last few months, she’s still a bit nervous. Lisa didn’t receive her first reconciliation until she was a teenager, so she’s asked me how to help her daughter feel more comfortable about making this sacrament at such a young age.

My daughter made her Reconciliation at a special ceremony during Advent. Our church asked parents to do the preparation at home and provided us with the student book and teacher guidebook. That’s when I discovered that learning about an Examination of Conscience and walking your eight year old daughter through one are two different matters.

My daughter and I read the list of questions on the Examination of Conscience. I explained that we need to sit and think about the times when we acted in a way that would have made Jesus sad, because we weren’t behaving in the way He asked us to use His love and guidance. Perhaps a time that we lost our temper? Maybe we didn’t tell the truth. Maybe we were mean to someone or thought bad things about them.

We discussed each item, what it meant, and talked about possible examples. Did you honor your parents? Well, what about that time she screamed “I hate you” when I told her we couldn’t watch television that night. I deliberately pointed out that the commandment “Love One Another” does not exclude her sister.

Throughout the year my daughter had been learning the Sorrow Prayer and she was so proud to be memorizing it. I listened to her recite it and then asked her to tell me what she thought it meant – choosing to do wrong and failing to do good.

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good
I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance,
to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God have mercy
After our talk, she sat at the kitchen table and carefully printed out her list of “sins” that did include not being nice and loving to her sister and not always obeying her parents. The list went with us to the Reconciliation, tightly folded as she waited in line to sit with Fr. Bob at the front of our church. When she sat before him, I could see her hesitate, then begin to talk, occasionally referring to her list. Fr. Bob took the list from her and (I found out later) told her she wouldn’t need the list anymore because those sins were gone. They were removed from her, just like he was removing the paper. It all made sense to my daughter. She practically skipped down the aisle with a radiant smile on her face. She had no more sins in her heart … or in her hands.

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