A reader writes in:
A year and a half ago I heard that a young woman named Erin was flying to the West Coast for her godson Bryce’s first confession. I mentioned to her mother who informed me of this: “Tell Erin that she will have to go to confession herself during the penance service. Her example will be very important to Bryce.”
Wrong! The liturgy was devoted entirely to the little second graders. Parents were in no way encouraged to take part in the sacrament of God’s merciful love and forgiveness. Not a single adult went to the sacrament that evening.
I have since heard of several other parishes where the parents and other adults attend their child’s first confession as it they were witnessing a cute thing. They even take pictures.
Am I missing something?
Fifty years ago I can recall hearing confessions monthly in preparation for First Friday for Catholic school youngsters. This was to develop a habit, one that has been lost for most recent Catholic school graduates.
I hope I am not alone in my confusion about these children-only first penance services.
Celebrating a child’s baptism, first communion, confirmation, etc., is an exciting time for many families. These moments are times when we initiate our children into a new way of living, a sacramental life. It is a time for parents to be proud and snap a picture or two. Unfortunately, many parents seem to have forgotten the ritual significance that lies behind the sacrament being celebrated. The liturgical celebration is no longer seen primarily as a sacramental ritual, but a rite of passage detached in many ways from its religious function.
I too cannot stand “communal” celebrations in which only those being “honored” are able to fully participate in the liturgy. If you are going to have a penance service in which your children will give their first confessions, then everyone should be allowed and encouraged to participate fully by going to confession.
First confession is the one “first” that I would imagine would be immune to the pageantry and paparazzi so common for sacramental rituals like first communion. While our reader writes in specifically about first confession, I think his critique is not limited to the sacrament of penance.
How does your community conduct first confessions? In what ways does your community attempt to focus a child’s ritual “firsts” on the sacramental rites being celebrated and not the pageantry that can be so distracting to proper liturgical celebration?
Please comment below.