Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…

The morning of our son’s first reconciliation arrived and he admitted he was nervous.
We had finished the religious education book, talked about the sacrament many times, and practiced what he would say.
But being ready didn’t mean he wouldn’t be nervous. Looking around the chapel, I could tell his classmates were, too.
Of course you’re nervous, I said. It’s your first time. It’s natural to be nervous. Any time we are doing something that is important and that we care about, we get a little nervous. That’s OK.
Besides, I told him, I don’t know how many times I have been to confession, and I still get a little nervous every time I go. But the good news? I am always so happy afterward. I always feel relieved. I feel closer to God. And I always walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Before the children got in line outside the confessionals, the parish held a simple but beautiful prayer service. And, as I sat there in the pew, I suddenly realized I had spent so much time preparing him that I hadn’t thought to prepare myself for my own confession.

I found myself thinking of how on the airplane the flight attendants remind you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your child with his. This second-grade year is an important reminder of that for me. To prepare our son for his first Reconciliation and first Eucharist, I need to make sure my own spiritual house is in order.

Fortunately I had time to do an examination of conscience before I went in to kneel at the screen myself. And my experience was everything I could have hoped for and then some. I left, as I do so often, renewed and at peace, with tears in my eyes. We are so blessed that Our Creator is so merciful and that we have this wonderful way to encounter His mercy through Reconciliation.
This week the Church begins the Year of Mercy. I don’t know yet what that will mean for me and my family. I do know, however, that now we have another member of the family who will be seeking grace through Reconciliation. And I hope he always finds the joy he found at his first Reconciliation, when he walked out with a big smile and a plan for how to complete his penance.
It’s such an amazing moment in our son’s life, a true moment of maturity and adulthood for our not-so-little boy. Making his First Communion in some ways will be simpler. From a very early age our children have understood that the bread and wine becomes Jesus’ body and blood. But learning about God’s mercy and grasping a deeper understanding of sin and forgiveness does not come as easily.
Yet here he is, taking this significant step in his faith journey. And we, his parents, will be at his side, trying to strengthen our own faith as we help him grow in his.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.