Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How to teach kids about the Sacrament of Reconciliation without mentioning sin...

Years ago, an ex-Uniting minister, now Lutheran, said to me that he became Lutheran because Lutherans were not afraid to use the word sin. Time was when Catholics weren't either. I'm afraid that time is long gone in some quarters.

Tonight we had the second session of preparation at my daughter's Catholic primary school for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, I know you know that my daughter is a Lutheran, but we have reached a wonderfully ecumenical solution to (at least) this stage of her Christian initiation: she is doing her preparation for Reconciliation with her classmates, and will then actually do her first "Private Confession and Absolution" with her own Lutheran pastor. A rather neat solution, methinks.

Tonight was the second of three sessions held to prepare for this. The first, about a month ago, was just a prayer and meditation service at the parish church for parents. Cathy went to that. She said it was very nice, but not much detail was given about the rest of the preparation.

Next week the third session will be held: another prayer service for the whole family at the church for about an hour.

Tonight then was the only really "content-based" session. It was at her school and went for about an hour and a quarter. After gathering together and learning a couple of songs for next week's service, we split into four workshops: 1) Writing a Sorry Prayer, 2) Listening to the Story of the Forgiving Father (the Prodigal Son), 3) Looking at Family Choices, 4) The rite of Reconciliation.

It was all quite good--as far as it went. It gave me a good opportunity to talk about many issues of sin and forgiveness and the rite of reconciliation with my daughter. But it was really only introductory stuff--I was the one supplying the detail from my own knowledge. It would have been great if this was the first of (say) three or four similar sessions, each successively going a little deeper into the catechesis of this sacrament.

Did my child learn what the three requirements of a good "act of contrition" was? Was she told what the three parts of the sacrament were? Was she told that she should go to confession regularly (every month or two weeks or at least once a year)? Was she told she shold not go to communion if she was not in a state of grace? Was she told what a mortal sin was? Or a venial sin? Was she told that to make a good confession she should confess all the sins she could remember? Was the connection between baptism and confession explained? Was she instructed in how to do an examination of conscience? Was penance properly explained? In fact, was the word "sin" used at all at any point in the whole session? Was it explained that the priest actually "forgave" the sins confessed? Was the absolution formula read to the children so they could hear what the priest actually said--ie. the real "stuff" of the sacrament?

The answer to all these questions is "No". In fact, as I said to my wife, it was like going with your child to a sex-education session run by the school only to find that it is being taught by celibate nuns who used euphamisms all the way through without naming any of the "naughty bits", showing pictures, or even mentioning how the "seed got from the daddy to the mummy".

Every day in every way I am learning to understand the state of the Australian Catholic Church more and more.

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