I stopped working out a month ago and have cheated on phone free Friday.
Oh wait, wrong confession. I was going to talk about the actual Sacrament!
My third son, Matthias, just made his first confession a couple weeks ago, and he had such a great experience! The nerves, the fears, all melted away once he completed Reconciliation.
My Own Experience
As a shy and introverted 7 year old, my first experience was not so pleasant. Instead of focusing on the grace and generosity of the sacrament, I couldn't see past the rubrics and the ritual. I spent hours memorizing the words beginning with: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...;" and more time memorizing the Act of Contrition. Still more time was spent in an examination of conscience so that I would have adequate sins to report. I was so afraid I would say something wrong or even completely draw a blank.
Of course, I knew in my mind that those fears were silly and mostly groundless. The priest was sweet and holy and would never make me feel stupid--but I would make myself feel dumb enough for us both. Essentially, by having to memorize and recall so much "stuff," the Sacrament became an oral examination and presentation rolled into one....with the added shame of sharing deep, dark secrets with a grown-up. No wonder I dreaded it! The peace from the Sacrament was obscured with the stress of performance anxiety.
My Kids' Experience
I knew that I did not want my kids to feel this way about what should be a beautiful experience. So, not to be too obvious (ha ha), I simply printed out an examination of conscience and the Act of Confession prayer for them to bring into the confessional. Bam.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE Did I pay attention at Mass?
Have I fooled around in Church?
Did I say my prayers every day?
Did I say mean things to my mom or dad?
Did I always say "Thank You" to people?
Am I hard to get along with (during school, at Grandma´s, at home?)
Did I do what my mom and dad told me to do? My teacher?
Was I lazy around the house?
Did I do my chores?
Did I hurt others people´s feelings by calling them bad names?
Have I started fights with my brothers and sisters at home?
Have I blamed other people for things I do?
Did I get other people into trouble?
Do I hit people when I get mad?
Have I forgiven people? Or am I holding a grudge?
Have I cheated or been unfair in games?
Did I refuse to play with someone for no good reason?
Was I was lazy about my schoolwork?
Did I fail to do my homework?
Did I cheat in school?
How many times did I lie to my parents? My teachers? My friends?
Did I take anything that didn´t belong to me?
Did I avoid medicine? Did I refuse to eat food I didn´t like?
Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been _____________ since my last confession and these are my sins: (List your sins and about how many times) For these and for all my sins, I am heartily sorry.
Act of Contrition O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.
Thank you, Father!
Matthias has been asking every day when he can go again. He told me that knowing his soul was clean and pure was "awesome."
Making peace with God; confessing sins and being humble; accepting responsibility for wrong actions; receiving grace to continue on and avoid sin--these are all fruits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To have those goods tarnished by fear and stress is wrong. Basically, if we can remove some obstacles from our children's path, we should do it. They will face enough stress and hardship in their lives as it is. God wants us to be closer to Him!
Easy Rule #40099: If something that is supposed to bring peace is bringing you stress instead, reassess and see what needs to be changed. This can be applied to many situations, I've found. Thus, my Picture It posts when blogging seems challenging....