Just over 4.5 years ago my entire family came home to the Catholic Church. It was exhilarating and one of the best decisions we ever made. Now, to be honest, my children did not have much to say about this particular decision. They were too young at the time of our reception and their baptism. Now that my eldest is 7 years old and actively participating in her own faith formation (at home & in catechism class) she is super excited about receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In anticipation she is actively leading prayers at home, participating in catechism class, in Mass and recently took part in her first reconciliation. It was a perfect night!
As she prepared for this evening, she was nervous and excited – recognizing that this was one step in a series that brought her closer to full participation in the Mass. It was fun to watch her take part in a really beautiful reconciliation service in a sanctuary full of children and parents. Beyond the beauty of the service and my excitement for my child’s journey, I think I may have received more than my daughter from this process – so let me tell you why.
My daughter takes her faith formation seriously. She has fun, loves her teachers and likes her classmates. She does homework, makes suggestions about family formation and does quite well at Mass for her age. She is just like her mother – prayerful, reflective and desires to be close to Jesus. As she prepared for her first reconciliation, several things emerged which I thought were quite beautiful and something adults could learn from.
First, she really wanted to make a good confession. My daughter really labored over this point and the list she developed was quite insightful. She was so hungry to get it right, so self-aware, desirous to make a good confession and actually change her ways. What was her secret to a good confession besides raw honesty – she actually made a list.
Second, she had some interesting questions about the confession booth and the options available for confession during the service. I spoke to her about the different options, 1. going into the confessional or 2. sitting face-to-face with the priest of her choice to share her thoughts. Interestingly, she thought going “behind the screen” was odd when she had the option of SEEING the priest and sitting across from him FACE to FACE. She explained that she wanted to SEE the priest so that she could engage in a conversation with her favorite priest – our Pastor.
Third, she asked me how often one made a confession. I told her that it depends on the spiritual state of the person and an individual’s preference as to how often a person should go. She chimed in quickly and told me that she wanted to confess as often as needed and asked if she could confess frequently.
My parting take-aways:
- It’s one thing to sit back and reflect on all your failings and quite another to get with a priest and make a solid and full confession. I am not saying that adults hedge deliberately, but I will not lie that I have tried to rationalize away a sin or two in my time in an effort be a bit “more presentable.” In a world where image is everything even the confessional greets an individual or two who would like to present themselves in the best possible light. What I take away from watching my daughter – a full and complete confession is the ONLY way to go!
- Second, I learned that WE should have no “fear” of being in the open when it comes to confession. A face-to-face meeting with the one who has the power to absolve can be a powerful moment filled with individualized care, wise advice and healing. My daughter taught me about the power of relational connection and stated, “Daddy, he shook my hand when it was done.” I (WE) should be more open to seek out this relational touch and personal council from my time in confession. Confession is just that – a process for personal healing. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
- Finally, I realized that I need confession – on a very regular basis. I love confession! But from time to time I have allowed the busyness of the day to distract me from this healing act. As I listened to my daughter, I couldn’t help but to be reminded that confession is “fun” and should be a priority of my spiritual life / development. Frequency is KEY.
Children – an unfiltered window into holiness.
May God bless our journey.
Copyright 2013 Eric Neubauer