Saturday, January 23, 2010

SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION - Preparation for Penance is Almost Complete

Dear Parents,

Your child’s study of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is almost complete. Over the next week catechists and teachers will be reviewing the basic concepts and the related vocabulary in class as well as helping the children become more familiar with the way the sacrament is celebrated. Among other things, this is done through role-plays and visits to the reconciliation rooms and confessionals.

In two weeks the Celebration of God’s Forgiveness will mark the conclusion of our formal study of this sacrament. The Celebration of God’s Forgiveness is a sacramental penance service. After a fairly short “liturgy of the word” including readings, homily and some symbolic action, everyone present will be invited to make individual confessions.

If you believe your child is not ready to receive the sacrament, you should still plan on attending the celebration. There will be a natural break following the first part of the service so that those going to confession may go to the reconciliation room and those who are not staying may go home.

The best way to cap and complete the children’s study of this sacrament is for them to actually celebrate it. Some parents wish to delay the first confession until the week before first communion, but we have found that delay results in confusion, as in the classroom we begin to discuss a new sacrament. Of course we do suggest that children go to confession at least once again prior to first communion.

To accommodate as many families’ schedules as possible we have planned two different (but identical) celebrations – Tuesday, February 9 and Wednesday, February 10, both beginning at 6:30 p.m. The service on February 9 will be held in the Chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas. The service on February 10 will be held in the church at St. John. Unfortunately, it turns out that one session of STA School conferences are scheduled for the evening of Feb. 10. Parents who wish to attend the service at St. John will want to be sure to take this into account when scheduling conferences.

By now your child should be pretty close to having all the necessary prayers memorized (the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and Act of Contrition) and he or she should be able to make the Sign of the Cross. Occasionally parents ask why these prayers should be memorized. As a practical matter, the priests often give prayers as a penance, but we also feel that these prayers are a vital part of our Catholic tradition and should be passed on.

I hope that you and your child have been discussing the important concepts related to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Your child should be able to talk about sin, forgiveness, sorrow (being “sorry” or regretting what they did), and confession. They should understand that they must prepare to go to confession by praying to the Holy Spirit and making an examination of conscience, (or “looking into their heart“). By now the children should have learned what a penance is and have begun to become more familiar with the Rite of Reconciliation, itself. Adult vocabulary is not always as essential here as an understanding of the concepts that will make this sacrament meaningful, although some “adult” words (penance, absolve, mercy, Act of Contrition, etc.) are used in the Rite so it is important that the children understand them.

The children have visited the reconciliation rooms with their classes, but another visit with you will be beneficial. Don’t hesitate to allow your child to (in a respectful way) “try out” the priests’ chair and the kneelers in the confessionals. Talk about the lights above the doors, what they are for and how they are used. Discuss the need for silence in the reconciliation chapel while waiting for confession. Draw your child’s attention to the presence of the purple booklets and the laminated sheets for adults that are available.

One of the best ways you can help your child prepare for this sacrament is to let your child see that you value it yourself. While it may be “boring” for a child to wait for you in church while you go to confession, letting your child do this at least once will help him understand that this is not just a sacrament for children.

In Christ,

Annie Kitching

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