As I mentioned yesterday, Flora is going to be receiving her First Holy Communion this spring.
This is an exciting time is the evolution of her faith, although, let’s face it: She probably doesn’t know that yet.
Confession (ha!): I don’t remember my first reconciliation (commonly known as confession or penance) or my First Holy Communion. I do remember a set of children’s Bibles I got at the time (Old Testament and New Testament, naturally). I read the heck out of those Bibles. They were written to my level, and they were GREAT stories.
As most 7 and 8 years olds do, Flora has a pretty simple, straightforward view of God and religion. Her faith is absolute. God exists (probably because Mom and Dad and most of the other people she knows say God exists), and being bad gets you in trouble. Be good so you don’t get in trouble. (This probably goes for more than just spiritually.)
Before she receives First Holy Communion, Flora will receive her first reconciliation. Right now, I’m pretty focused on making that anxiety-free for her. It’s tricky. She’s 8. It’s not as if she has a lot of major sins on her plate to confess. I don’t remember being anxious about it — but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t. (Mom, Dad, any memories of this?)
When they had the parents’ meeting about reconciliation, they had some tips about it. There was also a nifty historical lesson by our deacon that I enjoyed. My Catholic school days are far behind me, and if I knew some of the stuff he talked about, I had forgotten it.
I plan to talk to Flora about confession, and how it’s meant to make her closer to God. I’m not going to focus on the “everyone’s a sinner” aspect of religion at this point. One of the ideas I had was to run through the Ten Commandments with her, and have her base her confession on them.
The deacon talked about the Seven Deadlies, but I think those are too advanced for Flora. “Sins,” he said, “are the perversion of natural needs and desires.” (I’m paraphrasing, but it was an interesting way to look at sin.) Hence the Ten Commandments idea.
I don’t want these sacraments to provoke anxiety in Flora. I don’t want her to hear, “You are bad, and this is why you have to do this.” Being closer to God is an occasion of joy.
As part of her preparation for these sacraments, I have been working harder to take her to Mass each Sunday. (Confession: I don’t make Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Confession: I need to go to confession.) For one, because it’s important for me to go to Mass. For two, because it’s important that I set a good example for Flora. And for three, because it’s important that Flora learn that it’s about more than sitting there being bored. Mass gives us a structure in which to offer ourselves to God (in thanks, in despair, in need, in hope).
At some point (well, I hope), Flora will realize why Mass is important, why religion and faith are important in general. And it’s not that we practice our faith or are good people because if we don’t we’re “bad” and we will be punished.
As faithful adults, we go to church, and obey the commandments, and are in general good, moral, and ethical people because we love God. We want to do what pleases and glorifies him — not for us, and not so we don’t go to Hell — but because we love him.
Please note, I am not saying you have to be religious to be a good, moral, and ethical person. There are plenty of crappy religious people (who are probably depending too much on the “But I believe in God!” strategy to get them through) and lots of very kind and good agnostic and atheist people. The absence of religion doesn’t make you a terrible person; the practice of religion by itself doesn’t make you a good person.
For me (and I’ve said it before), my Catholic faith and its practice is a source of peace and strength. I have my issues with the Catholic church. But the core message of love that I get from Jesus and God is worth the struggles with their representatives on Earth.
Do you remember your First Holy Communion or Reconciliation? How are you going to help your kids understand them (if you have kids)?