"S" made her first reconciliation on Monday night. For all those who do not practice the Catholic faith, she went to her first confession. I never questioned my priest or my parents about participating in this very practice when I was in first grade and barely able to genuflect, but I questioned every aspect of this process with her. It began when she came home from Sunday school one morning and asked me what a "sin" was. My first reaction was "Oh thank goodness, I had not brought "the going to hell and the discipline by guilt" into the picture yet. But then I realized I had to answer. So I stumbled around with an explanation marked by words such as bad choices, hurting someone, unkind and probably confused her even more. Somehow she managed to be satisfied with this mumbo, jumbo and declared, "well I do not have to worry about that because I do not have any of those" (sins)! Realizing the introduction of confession had begun with only four weeks to go, I started to ponder the necessity of this process for "S". It was not that I did not understand or questioned my own belief in this practice, but wondered if this was an appropriate age for her to embark on such an intense and emotional ritual. I knew that her class would be making their first communion in May, and this step was the prerequisite to this celebration, but was struggling with the concept of "S" sinning and feeling a need to repent. The only other choice was to wait until she was much older and then have her fulfill this sacrament by herself. I explained this to her and she, in no uncertain words was going to do this later. She wanted to be with her class. So we proceeded by first learning the "Act of Contrition", a prayer often said once the confession is over. This prayer has changed quite a bit since I was a child and thus we had to learn it together. Realizing that neither of us would memorize this in such a short time, I asked the teacher if she could use a "cheat sheet". "S" pronounced to me again, in no uncertain words that she would not be using a sheet of any kind because she was going to learn this no matter what. One week later, she rattled off this prayer without hesitation and I still stumbled on the right words and sequence. With only two weeks before the date, "S" decided she needed some sins. Once again I provided some examples and within the next week she reported that she had "come up with three sins". Although I was a bit interested, I told her that these were between God and her, but she could not wait to divulge and so she did. Without completely revealing the contents, they all revolved around not completely telling the truth and being unkind. I could not believe how insightful she was at age 8, but chatter among her Sunday school peers may have prompted this declaration. For all I know the entire second grade class of 200 students professed the same three infractions! So one week to go and thinking she was prepared, we are handed the beginning prayer stated within the confessional to memorize. Thinking that this is absurd at this late date, I contemplate writing this prayer on her hand. "S" looked at me like "You of little confidence" and practiced these three sentences until they were stated perfectly. On Monday night, I actually watched her as she completed this sacrament. She was excited, not the least bit nervous and delighted at her accomplishment. It humbled me because I am still nervous and not at all confident when I confess and I have had 58 years of practice. In May she will receive her first communion. At the moment, her focus is on the dress and veil, but I realize that she understands more than I know and is helping me to renew my own faith in our religious practices.
Garden Ridge, Texas