— St. Henry Suso
Jennifer wrote to ask me about the First Confession/First Communion program at our church, and as such I am going to have this post about Cate’s first confession do double duty.
I know that Cate won’t mind!
Let me begin by saying that for all the kidding around that I do on this blog—for all the light sarcasm and the goofy exaggerations—I take the sacramental life quite seriously. It is through the sacraments that we obtain grace, and without grace I would be lost. Completely lost.
You know the wretch in the song “Amazing Grace?” Well, that was me. I could try to explain to you how much I changed after my first general confession (where I confessed all-at-once the many, many sins of my past life), but now is not the time, I don’t think. I will try to explain when I get around to telling my conversion story, and I’m thinking perhaps during the Fridays of Lent is when I’ll tell that tale.
And do you know what else? My husband has courageously agreed to keep the kids this weekend so that I can go on retreat—the same sort of retreat that originally triggered my conversion! I am a little numb at the thought that after 13 years, I will be following the Spiritual Exercises once more. I am nervous. What will God have to say to me?
Anyway. Back again to the post on my daughter’s First Confession. My family is blessed in that our parish has an awesome religious education program. It is well organized, fun and best of all–in this opinionated mom’s opinion–it is orthodox. (By “orthodox” I mean that my parish strictly adheres to the teachings of the Holy Father and the Magisterium. Sadly, we have many religious education programs here in the Twin Cities that do not.)
Even as homeschoolers, we have always been pleased to participate in our church’s 2nd grade sacramental prep classes, (I teach the other grade levels at home), the occasional children’s retreat, and of course, the second-to-none, can’t-be-beat week of CVBS.
Jean is the coordinator of Elementary Religious Education at our church, and has been so for the past eight years. Do you know Jean? Well, you should. The children absolutely love her, and we parents are pretty fond of her as well! She is as holy and kind and wise as a person could be. She is also very patient, and indulged my many questions as I prepared to write this post.
Jean said that the heart of our parish sacramental prep program is the book Jesus and I by Father Aloysius J. Heeg, S.J. (reviewed here by Alicia). It is the best one she’s found by far, Jean said.
The book includes three sets of questions at the end of each chapter: one section titled “How many can you answer?”; one titled “Can you also answer these?”; and a third list of review questions.
The first set of questions corresponds to the text of Jesus and I. The second set of questions in this book was taken directly from the Baltimore Catechism, and it is these questions that the children need to learn for their First Confession and First Communion interviews. (The answers are listened in the back of the book, incidentally.)
Certainly you don’t have to go over all of these questions with your child, but you can bet that your students will know the faith if you do so. “Get it in their hearts when they are children and as they grow older they’ll understand it,” Jean said.
Providentially, Jean was also given a coloring book with pictures done for Jesus and I. She printed them up into a big spiral-bound workbook with the stories and questions from the text–to make it more “kid-friendly”, she said. And that is what our children use to prepare for the sacraments of First Penance and First Communion!
As we get closer to Cate’s First Communion, I will see if I can get permission to post the novena prayer we use. On each day of the nine-day novena, which ends on the day before they make their First Communion, our child plants a different flower (i.e. virtue) in the garden of their soul. “Now my heart is a beautiful garden with many flowers that I have made just for You, dear Jesus. I hope that you are pleased!”
How could He not be?
Ad Jesum per Mariam, (as always),