Earlier this week a meeting was held for parents of students who will make their First Communion and, equally as important, their first Reconciliation.

Right now our second grade classes are preparing for Reconciliation. As you know, this is one of the seven sacraments of the church and it precedes First Communion. I like to call it the most “human” sacrament because it addresses our relationship with Christ in the way we live our everyday life. So this morning, I joined Mrs. Madden’s second grade class as they continued their preparation for their first Reconciliation.

As was emphasized last night, there are several steps we should consider as we prepare to receive this sacrament.  First of all we have to stop and think about what we are doing, how we are living our lives in our relations with one another, as that is how we are living in relationship to Christ.

We can consider this on many levels, all of which are important – how do we care for our world and the people in it? How do we care for our community? Our co-workers? But, in my opinion, it all begins and ends with our family- those people God has entrusted most particularly to us. They are our greatest gift and greatest responsibility. Think about! God totally loves each person and chose to bring particular people together as a family. He gave us to each other for a reason – and that reason is to bring one another to God, through Jesus. So as we prepare for Reconciliation, we need to think, most importantly, about how we live those relationships.
This step in preparing for Reconciliation is usually called “Examination of Conscience”. While there are many ways to do this , the most fundamental, and the one we teach the children, is to “think” what we have done using the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 2057) refers to them, in part, as a “…path of life.”

Once we have done that, we are ready to confess our sins. But this is often a “sticking point” for people. We simply don’t want to tell another person our sins. We must understand that in Sacramental moments, which are about our relationship with Christ, the priest serves “in persona Christi” – in the person of Christ. This is part of his call to priesthood; part of Christ’s gift to him to enable the priest to serve us in His name.  In the video the children saw about reconciliation, there is a figure of Christ standing over the shoulder of the priest, extending His hand in absolution, as the priest does. This is a good illustration for all of us to consider as we prepare for Reconciliation.

After we confess our sins, we are given a “penance”. Culturally, we tend to think of this as a “punishment”. However, the word comes from a Latin word “pensare” which means to “think again”. So our penance is not a punishment but a help for us to understand what we have done and why we have done it –and how we can avoid doing it again.

We then say our “Act of Contrition” telling God of our true sorrow for our sins. After this we are given Absolution, which is truly God forgiving of our sins and lifting the burden and worry and feelings or guilt from us.

One of the best things we can do for our family is not to send them to Reconciliation but to TAKE them to Reconciliation. This helps our children understand that this sacrament is important-especially in deepening our relationship as a family.