Tuesday, January 3, 2017

First Reconciliation - My how things have changed

Next month, Desmond will celebrate his first Reconciliation at Our Lady of Guadalupe.

One of the advantages of attending Catholic school is that this is all part of the curriculum.  We don't need to send him to special CCD classes.  There are a few additional Sunday meetings, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the years of after school sessions my mom sent me to.

A part of Desmond's journey that I have enjoyed, however, is the parental involvement.  I honestly don't remember if my parents were involved in my first sacraments (outside of baptism, obviously) in the way that the Church is making us participate.  But, I have been grateful for the experience and the refreshers.  At first, I may have groaned a bit (UGH...I already did all this 25 years ago!).  But, I have actually found it pretty enlightening.

Mostly in regards to how Confession/Reconciliation has changed.

Or...rather, how it should have been at Our Lady of the Lake when I was growing up.  Turns out a lot of these "changes" that I am enjoying were part of Vatican II.  But, apparently the memo didn't get to Lake Havasu City.

Here's how I remember Confession.

You would stand in a line outside the room with a bunch of other people, silently tracking how long the people before you were in there.  At Our Lady of the Lake, the confessional was a small room, not like the "box" that you see at many churches.  It was dimly lit.  There was a screen with a kneeler.  There was also a chair across from the priest.  There was no screen in front of the chair.

Here's the thing.  I happened to have a pretty good relationship with my priests when I was young.  Fr. Rudy and Fr. Greg.  See, I was an alter server, I taught CCD classes to Kindergartners, I was a Eucharistic minister in my high school and college years, and I think I even joined the choir for a bit.  I had a particularly good relationship with Fr. Rudy.  The point is, they knew who I was, they knew my parents, the knew my grandparents.  For some reason, I felt like I had to sit in the chair facing the priest.  Although, there was one time that I used the screen.  Fr. Greg was on the other side.  About half way through my confession he says, "Is this Jason?"

 So, when you are 8 or 10 or 13 or 16 or, frankly, even 39...sitting across from someone you admire and who you want to think highly of you and telling them about all the things you did wrong...that's not really fun.  In fact, I hated doing it every single time.

And, I was one of the good kids!  In the grand scheme of ways kids can get in trouble, I was pretty lame.  I am pretty darn confident that I didn't have any "sins" to offer any priest that they haven't heard a bazillion times before.

Still...sitting across from Fr. Rudy and telling him that I said bad words (oh boy did I say bad words) or that I lied to my parents or that *GASP* I watched one of those late night nudie shows on Showtime...that S-U-C-K-E-D!  And, candidly, I think it scarred me a bit for confession.  Because I don't go anymore.  Not on an individual basis, at least.  I go to the congregational confession when it's held.  This is when the priest holds a confessional service.  As a parish, we ask forgiveness for our sins, pray and are absolved of our sins.  No one on one where I spew out everything I'm ashamed of.

Fr. Jack, my current pastor, is the greatest priest I have ever had.  He's a wonderful man who teaches the ways of Jesus in a way that focuses on love, forgiveness, service and grace...not in the "do this or your going to hell" way that so many other pastors focus on.  I have often told Fr. Jack that he sounds like a Jesuit.  His response is "I have been accused of that many times."  I have zero desire to show him what's behind the curtain.

So, back to what I have learned from working with Desmond on Reconciliation.

First of all...it's called Reconciliation, not Confession.  The focus is on Reconciling yourself with God.  The way Ms. Hoch (Desmond's teacher) teaches it, when we sin, God does not turn his back on us...we turn our backs on God.  He's still there, waiting.  Still loving.  Always loving.  The sacrament of Reconciliation is the act of acknowledging our poor choices and turning, once again, back to God.

With this in mind, no longer do you sit in front of the priest and regurgitate all your sins.  Apparently now, it's more of a conversation.  What's keeping you from being the best person you can be?  What's on your mind and heart that has become a burden?

Kim and Shaundar have also both been part of this journey.  Neither of them are Catholic, but they've both been very active in learning about all these sacraments.  That's been great for me, as well.  For Shaundar to be supportive of something in our son's life that is important for me.  And, for Kim to learn about my faith in a way she's never been exposed to before.

I have yet to go to confession...*cough* sorry...reconciliation with Fr. Jack.  I mentioned to him that I may have to bite the bullet and give it a shot.  He says he looks forward to it (in a very sincere, "I think that's a great idea" way).  But, I'm still terrified.  Again, I'm positive I don't have anything to talk about that he hasn't heard before.  And, I suspect my confession would be much less juicy than others he has heard.  But, the discomfort remains.  Maybe it's pride?  Maybe I should confess that as well?  Who knows.

First Reconciliation happens on Feb. 4.  I have made it a personal goal to attend Reconciliation myself, 1:1 with Fr. Jack, by that time.  Let's see if I pull it off.  If I don't, I guess I will need to confess that I just lied to both of my readers.

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