Reconciliation according to Fifth Graders
After months of preparation, our children’s first experience of Reconciliation takes place this Saturday. This is my fourth year of sacramental preparation, and quite honestly, I do feel a little anxiety as the celebration of the Sacrament draws near.
Each year at this time, I review the self-check list: Do the children feel confident with what they know? Did I miss any key concepts? Do they know the difference between a sin, an accident, a mistake? Have the activities provided space for them to give voice to the experience of forgiveness? Are they comfortable with saying an act of Contrition? Do they know that God loves them and will always forgive them? In the quiet of my heart a voice emerges, “Get real Pat, God’s grace happens… regardless of your limitations. Trust me!”
Throughout the seasons of sacramental preparation I learned to trust to process. This past Sunday, our last SCORE before the celebration God’s grace was truly evident. This was a very meaningful class as the children from Grade 5 joined us. It was quite apropos, the fifth graders are studying the sacraments, and they are my very first group that I helped get ready for Reconciliation. So, I turned to them for help.
The gathering ritual for 46 children went like clockwork. The Level 2 children quickly assembled into their respective base-community. Once the younger ones were ready, the older children joined in and we proceeded to four different classrooms. Each group began with the story of the Good Shepherd with prompts for faith sharing. “What message does Jesus want to say to us?” The overall responses were clear, Jesus will never leave us alone, he will always go and look for us.
The conversation continued as the older children shared their feelings of apprehension about first confession. Their greatest fear was forgetting what to say, and the priest was going to yell at them. With such sincerity, the older children explained, “don’t be afraid, the priest is so nice, and when you are finished you will feel so good and so peaceful.” Their words of encouragement seemed to make a difference with the younger kids.
Our group role played the Rite of Reconciliation. The older children walked the younger children through the process. What surprised me, how all the children became so immersed in rite. It was so moving as the younger children talked about their struggles with brothers and sisters, and the older ones role playing the “priest” gave suggestions of how to make peace with siblings. We talked about the act of contrition and prayed together. At the conclusion of class, the older children raised their hands in blessing and prayed over the younger children.
Sunday’s class showed God’s love reaching out through our children. They all were so sincere as they practiced the Rite of Reconciliation. It was evident, God’s healing and peace reaches into our lives in ways that we least expect. God reminds us…I love you, I am with you always.