July 06, 2007

Kids and Confession

I used to think that making kids go to Confession was ridiculous. Then, again, I thought that Confession was ridiculous for everybody-including me. I was taught by people, who should know better, that Confession was something Catholics had to do 40 years ago but don't have to do anymore since Vatican II "liberated" us. (Since Vatican II is blamed and used to justify just about everything, I'm amazed that someone has not discerned the link between Vatican II and "global warming" yet!)

I had an argument with one of my dissident "Catholic" buddies a few months ago on the very topic of kids and Confession. She said, snorting loudly: "What's the point? What have kids done that's SO bad? What are they going to confess? I hit my sister?" Then she laughed and snorted again.

For the record, this gal has probably not seen the inside of a Confessional for, at least, 20 years.

Many parishes that call themselves Catholic, and you may know of some, skip the Sacrament of Confession either altogether or they water it down so much that it becomes a picnic, literally. Let's have a picnic where we can sing songs and feel good about ourselves and each other. Why guilt ourselves? Why burden our kids with guilt? Or, the kids go talk with Father about whatever before they receive their First Communion. By whatever, I mean everything but BAD or SIN. If they want to rap with Father Joe or, just Joe, about the baseball game they played last night and they feel kind of sad they didn't win that's valid. The exercise teaches them socialization skills and how cool and approachable Joe is. (think I'm making this up? think again)

Examinations of conscience are skipped. The form of confession is not taught.

Why is this alarming? Why does it matter?

We teach children because:

1) We want them to learn the difference between right and wrong, appropriate versus inappropriate
2) We want them to learn skills/habits that they will carry with them thru life

We teach children not to hit their sister because it's not appropriate behavior. We hope that in doing so they will quit doing it and they won't keep doing it as they grow up. True, it may have to be repeated several times to sink in. In extreme cases, it may never sink in.

Same with confession. We teach kids the habit of the Sacrament of Confession because it helps teach them the value of right versus wrong. Also, we pray that they continue the practice into adulthood. If it doesn't sink in, then at least we fulfilled our mission in that we did our part. They have the free will to accept or reject Him. However, hopefully, we did not do anything to push them to reject Him by our action or lack thereof.

If the worst a kid can come up with is that they hit their sister. Don't worry. that won't be the worst thing they will ever confess. But, if we laid the foundation correctly and early enough, when the time comes for the "heavy stuff", they will know what to do.

I am a big fan of confessing venial sin. People have accused me of being overzealous in this regard. However, confessing venial sins helps me work on them and perceive the patterns of my behavior since I frequently struggle with the same ones and I have discovered there are patterns to their reoccurance.

The Catachism says:

1458: Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful. (Catachism of the Catholic Church 2nd edition)

It may not always be STRICTLY necessary for kids to go to confession. However, I think it is a good thing for them to become accustomed to. I'm always happy when I see kids at confession with their parents.

Which brings me to another point: What good does it do to teach your kids by word only, but not example? Do your kids ever see YOU at confession? If not, your kids may think:
a) Mom and Dad must be Saints
b) When I become an adult, I won't have to do this anymore

Why would I, single and childless, want to talk about kids and confession? Gentle Reader, we are ALL responsible for handing on the Faith whether the kids are ours or not. We do this by example and pointing things out. Whether the kids are mine or not, they are the future of our Church and they are fellow members of the Body of Christ. We also have to answer for ourselves if we don't fulfill our end of the bargain by teaching our little ones.

Honestly, it terrifies me that our children could go thru the same DECADES of ignorance that I did. Consider this post as doing my part.

Confession matters: Your SOUL depends on it.


Blogger Ray from MN said...

Good post, Cathy!

You alluded to something that occurred at the same time that people stopped going to Confession.

In many of our parishes, "Father Murphy" became "Father Jim", and then "just plain Jim."

He no longer exuded the aura of sanctity that someone who daily offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass "in persona Christi."

That aura made it easier for us to confess our sins to a man because we knew in our innermost beings that he really was there "in the place of Christ."

And that aura no doubt made it easier for Father to keep those vows that he made when he was consecrated a "priest forever in the order of Melchisedech."

Just as teaching little Billy that it is a sin to hit his sister instills in him a consciousness of right and wrong and the availability of the forgiveness of Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession, so too, addressing our priests as "Father" helps both us and Father to remember that he is someone special who serves on earth of Christ's special representative.

I know that some priests don't mind being called "Father Chuck", but I can't ever see that calling him Charles, Charlie or Chuck would be appropriate.

July 06, 2007 4:17 PM  
Blogger :o) said...

Confessing one's sins should teach humility, too.

July 06, 2007 4:54 PM  
Blogger gman59 said...

Loved your thoughts, I too feel much the same way. Sometimes church does not seem like church like you said sometimes it is a picnic.
Loved the global warming bit also! Really you hit home with this commentary.
Take Care
G Man

July 06, 2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger bearing said...

What a silly woman.

No, we don't strictly *have* to confess venial sins. But why approach any sacrament only because we *have* to? There's grace there for the taking... all we have to do is ask... and it's there any time we want. The sacrament of penance is a strengthening sacrament... absolution isn't the only thing we receive.

Not to mention the purely practical aspect of getting our kids into the habit of frequent confession. If you're used to confessing venial sins regularly, it's not going to be as hard to confess serious ones.

July 06, 2007 7:48 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

If you're used to confessing venial sins regularly, it's not going to be as hard to confess serious ones.

If you're used to confessing venial sins regularly, you may not ever NEED to confess any serious ones!

I can't find the passage (not the world's most thorough index), but in her Diary, St. Faustina says that Jesus asked her to pray for children, because children offend Him very much.

July 06, 2007 8:06 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

excellent post!

July 06, 2007 8:10 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thanks, all.

Ray and bearing: good points.

Anita: Jesus said to St. Faustina that children OFFEND Him very much? I find that confusing.

July 06, 2007 8:54 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

One of the first things as Youth Minister I ask “my kids” (7th - 12th grade), is when was the last time they went to confession. The usual answer is before they received first Holy Communion. Eeeeerk! But what can you expect when Mom and Dad don’t go (lucky if they make Mass) and think Joyce Meyer and Robert Schuller have some really good things to say. Please don’t keep telling me these are the “best educated Catholic” ever. NOT!!!!

July 06, 2007 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy,

Here is an example of why parents might want to set the example of going to confession regularly:
A few weeks ago we attended Sunday at Mass at St John of St Paul. We got there early to go to confession before Mass. I saw a young man I knew going to confession and leaving before Mass. I know (from a distance) the family this young man (age 19) belongs to. My heart warmed to see this young man go to confession. His parents and the high school he attended had prepared him well. I am sure you could guess the high school he graduated from. I hope and pray that I teach my children the importance of confession.
Good topic!

Pax et Bonum,

July 06, 2007 10:19 PM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...

Anita: Jesus said to St. Faustina that children OFFEND Him very much? I find that confusing.

This message from Jesus came on the heels of a vision St. Faustina had of children appealing to her. I believe He meant that they offend Him with their sins, belying the notion that children cannot sin (the age of reason is pretty low). Also, we have entered an age when we are seeing younger and younger children commit the most ghastly crimes. Children can and do offend God with their sins, which is why, when I was a kid, we had to make our first confession at the age of seven.

July 07, 2007 11:13 AM  
Blogger Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

excellent post! I ache for regular confession and Eucharist.

July 07, 2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Anita: Thanks for the clarification.

July 07, 2007 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Arkanabar, I also ache for regular Confession -- in our parish, it's 15 min. before each Mass, including Sundays, at which time I'm doing some last-minute rehearsals w/ choir soloists. Also, the comments about how priests are addressed these days really hit home -- not to mention the idea that Mass has somehow become a social occasion rather than an act of worship. My younger son recently commented that he doesn't see the point of common worship! My husband hasn't been to confession since we've been married -- 29 years. Part of the problem is my own example, because I've often come home grumbling about stuff that might happen at Mass. (I'm working on that!) THe other part of the problem is the lack of proper instruction on the liturgy, especially instruction on how to behave in a church. We say we believe that Our Lord is truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist, but how many people behave otherwise, even going to Communion with gum in their mouths! I've seen our choir directors do this -- and they think nothing of it. Our Pastor never preaches about reverence at Mass either. He ends every Mass with the statement that God loves us, which is true, but we ought to show our love for God by respecting Him. It can't be a one-way street, like any good marriage, the love is recognized and reciprocated. Sorry to rant, but this kind of thing saddens and angers me no end. It's just too much, and when you mention it, everyone thinks you're a fanatic! Well, so be it. Someone has to be serious about showing reverence for God, so it might as well be us fanatics.

July 07, 2007 7:33 PM  
Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

I try to go to confession often, and when I do, my five-year-old is jealous. He wants to go to confession!

I'm so proud.

July 07, 2007 9:17 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Paul: You should be.

Anonymous: In such cases, I think all you can do is work on yourself and your family first. Start by setting an example yourself for others to follow.

July 07, 2007 10:44 PM  
Anonymous TVS said...

Well, I know it's a radical idea, but what do children themselves think? I have one example to share.
When I was first entering the Church, my oldest niece was about nine years old. My sister-in-law's family all went to the Methodist church, so my niece had never seen a confessional and wanted an explanation.
"When Catholic people think we have done something wrong, when we do things that make us feel bad, when we have committed a sin, we can go into this little room and tell the priest what we did. Then the priest can tell us how to do better, and he tells us that Jesus forgives us," I said. (More or less -- this was a long time ago, now.)
My niece looked at me with huge eyes, taking this all in.
"Do grownups do things they feel bad about?" she asked.

So there you have it. Children, at least ones that are not on the road to sociopathy, have consciences and seek assurance of forgiveness. It is EVIL, imho, not to offer it to them.

July 19, 2007 2:51 PM  

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