Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Like taking a really good shower

First day of school!! We welcome all of our students and teachers back to school today. At today’s 8:30 Mass, I told the junior high students (6, 7, and 8th graders) that I was excited to have them back. I (somewhat reluctantly) asked them if they were excited to be back, and a strong undercurrent of ‘no’ was heard throughout the Church. We’re not exactly sure if this came from the students or teachers…! We prayed that they would all have a fruitful year together.
An anonymous blogger asked a great question about Confession with regards to his / her children: “I have a question I'd really like answered. I do not want to raise my children to believe that confession is a punishment, but when they have done something that they are old enough to understand goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature, should I reinforce (I guess really require) that they go to confession?”

In all of the times I’ve spoken about Confession, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘punishment’ to describe it. This is for two reasons: 1) I’ve never seen the Church describe this sacrament as a punishment, and 2) I don’t believe that it is a punishment. So, theologically at least, it would not be accurate to view or describe Confession as a punishment. Practically, though, many people –especially kids – might see it as an experience of being punished for what they did.

As a spiritual father, I try to “reinforce” frequently to God’s children “that they go to confession”. I guess my primary motivation is so that they will be freed of any sin, especially if there is mortal sin present in their souls. So, I often use the words “freedom” and “healing” to describe the Confession experience. But, on a more personal level, I talk so regularly about Confession because of the tremendous value it has played in my life. I have found Confession to be not a punishment, but an incredible gift! It’s like the “buried treasure” of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel. To have Jesus take all of my junk - all of the stuff that weighs heavily on my mind and soul – and separate it from me “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103) is an incredibly freeing experience. It’s like taking a really good shower; and this cleansing goes so much deeper because is wipes clean our soul.

So, as the first teachers of the faith to our children, parents should talk often to their kids about Confession, explaining the great role it can play in their lives. The real hope is that parents could teach their kids mainly by their own example of going to Confession regularly. Then, they could describe the positive impact it has played in their own lives (in general terms, at least). While parents’ examples will teach kids of all ages, it might be best for parents to wait until their children “are old enough to understand (that what they’ve done) goes against the church's teaching and is serious in nature” before they discuss in general terms their own experience about going to Confession.

Another Anon has provided some good insights about the positive nature of Confession that might be of some help to parents: “A lot of confession anxiety can go away if we remember that what we are really ‘confessing’ is that Jesus is who he said he was. He WILL forgive our sins. All we have to do is get to the absolution and realize that we can be perfected even though we are not now perfect. We can do this if an only if we let Jesus do it to us. He will give us the heart to love God and others with His Love and thus avoid sinning or missing the mark by hurting others and ourselves instead of loving God enough to do his will.

One of the psalms begs the Lord to teach us to delight in his commands. If we delight in his commands then we have learned to delight in Love -- true deep and divine love -- love that comes Jesus himself. When we live in that love we see the demand to be perfect not as a failure but as an opportunity - -an opportunity to grow in love and love as Jesus loved.”


At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked the question b/c on one particular occasion my child was caught in a lie. It was serious in nature and there were consequences for her actions- the “punishment.” We discussed not only why it was a serious offense to me, but also that morally it was an offense. I asked what she thought the proper action for that might be, and knowing where I was going, she answered, “Confession, but I don’t want to go- please don’t make me.”

There wasn’t anything I said (and don’t think I could have said) that changed her view that it was something I required her to do. And that’s how it went- I “required” it of her, and that’s what I am wondering about being okay. If I require it of her now, will it become something she requires of herself later? If she doesn’t want to go, do I make her do it anyway?

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Joan said...

It is very easy to talk about confession in a manner the children consider a threat or punishment; particularly when they do something that really angers the parent (guilty). In working to speak from love and not anger - after a deep breath and a prayer or two - I try to sit down and calmly say something like this (adjusting language based on their age): what you did was seriously wrong; you knew it was wrong; and you made the choice to do it anyway. Your lie hurt me, but you have apologized and promised not to do it again; and I forgive you. You will loose your cell phone (driving, TV, dolls, etc.) for _____ weeks as a consequence of your lying.

You must also realize that your lie offended God. He loves you more than I ever could. You can tell him you are sorry, but unlike me sitting here next to you, we can only hear His forgiveness in confession. I know it’s hard to tell someone else what you did wrong, believe me I know, but it’s so great to hear God forgive you, and He so wants to tell you. Confession isn’t punishment - that’s the loss of the cell phone. Confession is apologizing to God, like you did to me, and receiving His forgiveness. I can take you with me when I go on Saturday. I won’t make you ‘go to confession’, but I do ask that you at least go in there and talk with Father about what happened. If you don’t want to go with me on Saturday, I can call Father and set up a time for you to meet with him; unless you would like to call him yourself.

It seems if we speak of Reconciliation in a positive manner and receive regularly, our children will become more accepting of it as a regular (and wonderful) part of our life.

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What you described was very close to the conversation we had. I did not leave her the option to choose NOT to speak with Father, and that is what I question being right or wrong. I think once they are a certain age, those choices should be theirs alone. But for now, is it right for me to require my children to go to confession- for no matter how I spoke about confession to her, that is what I ended up doing.

Looking at the tag line for this post- I have had to "require" (insist, even) on occasion, that one or more children "take a really good shower" when they didn't want to. Maybe that's my answer.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Joan said...

Anon -

I have allowed them a distinction between 'going to confession' and 'talking to Father'. Sometimes, the only wrong they see is that they were caught; they aren't at all sorry for what they did (and it doesn't matter how old they are). So, I give them the option of going to confession or going to talk, a kind of 'see what Father thinks'. If they prefer the anonymity of going to the Shrine, then that's what we do.

When they have elected the 'talk' as opposed to confession, they have come to see what they did and the gift of the Sacrament. Then they are the one asking for it, instead of me making them do it.

No, this didn't come overnight, nor is it easy for me to allow them to choose, but it seems to be working for us.

And it appears God hears my prayers for patience :)


At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Joan said...



Speaking only for myself, there have been times I have had to go talk to a spiritual Father to figure out whether I was right or wrong. It was the only way I could lay out all of the details and get an objective answer. I had no doubt he would either tell me directly whether I was right or wrong, or he would help me figure it out. Sometimes, I realized anger and/or pride had affected how I handled a situation with the kids – and so asked for confession and then apologized to the kids for loosing my temper. What they had done was wrong (and they still had consequences), but that didn’t give me the right to behave badly. This was/is particularly true if what they did embarrassed me in some way.

Other times, I realized it was parental guilt – guilt that I hadn’t taught the children properly; guilt that I had to deprive them of something or make them do something they didn’t want to do; guilt that my actions would drive them from the Faith; guilt that I was a bad parent.....

I think the hardest parts for me, whether I was wrong or right in my response to their actions, are to (1) ‘go talk to Father’ and (2) let it go and quit beating myself up about it. But, it’s getting better.

If this situation is bothering you, you may want to call Father and talk about it in person.


At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One great aspect of being a teacher is having three months of vacation! The time really flies though.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

To our anon teacher-
What a great week this has been- my kids have returned back to school at SAA. I have kids in jr. high, primary and pre-K here, and each is very happy with their classes and teachers. My jr. high student actually (unprompted) said school was "really great" on Friday. I don't know where you teach, but rest assured- many, many are appreciative of your returning to your post. I'm sure I speak for many when I say, those past three months, we missed you!


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