Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
Years ago, when I converted to Catholicism, this was one of the biggest challenges I had with the church. Why couldn’t I just tell God my sins and call it a day? Why the priest? Why the examination of conscience? Why was it a sacrament?
Back in December 2008, our oldest made his First Reconciliation and I had this to say about what it all means.
As early as the 1st century, just after Jesus was crucified, “churches” were home-based groups and when one would commit a sin, he would stand before the “congregation” and spill all his venial and mortal sins to his brothers and sisters. They would offer forgiveness AND help him to sin no more. That’s right – you aired all your dirty laundry with your friends and instead of gossiping about how you were such a horrible person, they actually helped you become more holy. Now, a few centuries later, churches got a little bigger, and persecution got a little crazier. So, the penance for sinning became so serious that sometimes people would be banned from partaking of the Eucharist (communion) until they had sought forgiveness. Sometimes as long as 50 years! Fast forward a few more centuries and those churches became huge. Imagine if on Sunday morning we sat through everyone’s litany of their sins. We’d be there all week! So, the priest became the representative of the whole community, and thus, reconciliation as we know it today, was born.
Long answer to a simple question. But I hope that gives you some insight as to why Catholics believe in confessing our sins to the representative of the community, and then why we do penance. It’s our way of becoming closer to Christ by acknowledging the sin and asking the community/priest to help us sin no more.
Now you know. This weekend was a busy one for our family, but John Paul’s First Reconciliation was the highlight of our weekend. I swore I would not cry. And then I did. We were able to be in the church while the second graders made this sacrament. Priests were stationed in different corners, so we were able to watch John Paul and Fr. Isidore (such a great confessor, by the way). It was incredibly touching and moving. It gives a mom the first taste of letting go. John Paul is no longer my toddler, reaching out for my hand, asking me to steady him on uneven ground. No, now he’s reaching for a much bigger hand, that of God. He’s looking to Him. As a parent, it makes me incredibly proud and I am prayerful that the foundation we’re laying will not only make our boys good men, but Godly men. There is definitely a difference.
John Paul, you made us proud on Saturday. We love you. So much.
It wasn’t until I was editing these photos in PhotoShop that I realized how awesome this photo is of Scott and John Paul. It’s almost like a glimpse into our past and our future. The statue of St. Vincent de Paul holds the tiny baby boy, while Scott holds a little boy growing into a young man. Sorry to get all sappy on ya. Just had to say it.