Students enrolled in Religious Education will be prepared to receive this sacrament during the beginning of second semester of second grade. Each student must attend one year of religious education prior to beginning preparations for reconciliation which normally begins the Fall of second grade. Students who are older than second grade must attend sacramental preparation classes with the DRE and also attend a grade level class.
Theology Of The Sacrament Of Reconciliation
The origins of the sacrament of Reconciliation reach deep into the Hebrew Scriptures. There we find that God calls Israel to be a special people. In graciousness, God invites the Israelites to enter into a convenant, a personal relationship of love. “They shall be my people, and I shall be their God.” (Jeremiah 33:38)
God is always faithful to the established covenant, but the people of Israel are not. They sometimes turn their backs on God and refuse to honor the demands of their relationship of love. God, however, never ceases to love them. If only they will return to God, the Lord will freely offer them forgiveness. Many times the people heed the call to conversation, often addressed to them by the prophets, and open their hearts to God’s forgiveness. Rather, their actions impress upon them their own need for the healing power of God’s love.
Through his ministry of healing and acceptance of sinners, Jesus revealed that the God who is Creator of all is a forgiving Father. He revealed that repentance on the part of sinners would open them to the healing power of the Father’s love. Time and again he exercised this very power. And he urged his listeners to do the same.
Jesus shared his own ministry of forgiveness in a special day way with his apostles. And they took their ministry very seriously. Forgiveness of sins occupied a central place in their preaching and actions. St. Paul was very serious about the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus to those who seek it. He said that all Christmas were called to be such ministries by saying.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you do also. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” (Colossians 3:12-15)
A child’s first experience of sacramental Reconciliation should be a matter of personal choice. Children should be introduced to individual confession only when the child freely wants to turn to Jesus in this way. Parents and other religious educators should present their children to the possible values of individual confession and give witness, in word and deed, to its value in their own lives. No child, however, should be forced to go to sacramental Reconciliation against his or her will. Nor should the threat or having to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation be used to coerce children to behave. Manipulating of children or manipulating the sacrament can lead to resentment and even rebellion by children, stifiling their sense of God’s Mercy and will to heal.
Throughout the development of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the penitent’s admission of sin has been considered not merely a listing of wrongs, but a personal admission of guilt, or responsibility for the failings acknowledged. Confession is a moment of sheer honesty when Christians express their accountability.
Before children are introduced to individual confession of sin, their capacity for moral judgement should be developed sufficiently so that they can distinguish between an accidental wrong and a deliberate wrong. They should be able to see clearly the admission of sin has been considered not merely a listing of wrongs, but a personal admission of guilt, of responsibility for the failings acknowledged. Confession is a moment of sheer honesty when Christians express their accountability.
Before children are introduced to individual confession of sin, their capacity for moral judgement should be developed sufficiently so that they can distinguish between an accidental wrong and a deliberate wrong. They should be able to see clearly the difference between a blameless act and one for which they are accountable.
Children should be introduced to Confession only when their sense of sin is sufficiently developed; that they are able to understand that sin injures their relationship with God and the Church and calls for pardon. They should reconginize sin as a failure to love God and neighbor sufficiently and should be able to appreciate the relationship the Jesus revealed between the two — appreciating both the personal and social dimensions of sin and the ecclesial dimension of reconciliation.
Children should be able to communicate with the priest in their own terms, not depending on memorized list of sins. This may mean they are not ready.
Family environment greatly influencse moral and religious development. The decision about children’s readiness for individual Confession should not be made hastily. The possible negative results of premature confession – anxiety, negative attitudes about God, mechanical practice — pose risks that can be avoided if parents and other religious educators exercise diligence in leading their children to the sacrament. Children should not be put into a position that demands more of them than they are able to give. Such demands can only cause distress and unhappiness for them and ultimately lead them away from this valuable experience of God’s healing love.
Parent’s Food For Thought
- How do you express forgiveness toward your child?
- What do you feel is the most effective way you can show your child forgiveness?
- How can you help your child show forgiveness to someone who has hurt him/her?
- How do you make the word “I’m sorry” part of your family life?
- How can you help your child feel and express sorrow out of love and concern, not merely out of fear of punishment or fear of being caught?
- How do you use prayer as a means of encouraging reconciliation in your home?
- What is an effective approach to prayer/reading scripture in your family?-To talking about God and His love and concern for us? – To showing your child how to pray?
- What are some ways you can help your child evaluate misbehavior?
- How do you help your child become more responsible for his/her own actions?
Practical Reconciliation Preparation Tips:
- Look forward to the day your child will receive the sacrament and plan how you will celebrate this first meeting with Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Tell your child how wonderful it is that God loves us even when we fail to love, and how He is always ready to forgive us. Share your own desire to express sorrow for yours sins, and take your child with you when you go to Reconciliation.
- Guide your child to a short examination of conscience before he/she goes to bed at night, and together, pray an Act of Contrition.
- When you notice that your child has done something that offends God or hurts someone, guide him/her in a gentle and loving way to reconciliation with God and that person.
Your child will gain a sense of God and a commitment to a Christian way of life by observing your own actions and attitudes. The following gospel stories are great to read to children preparing for sacrament of Reconciliation:
“The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11 – 32)
“The Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:1-6)
“The Woman and the Lost Coin” (Luke 15:8-10)
“The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-36)
“Zacchaeus” (Luke 19:1-9)
“The Great Commandment” (Mark 12:29-34)
“The Penitent Women” (Luke 7:36-50)
“The Healing of the Lepers” (Luke 17:11-17)