Our parish celebrated it last night. Over many years and many parishes, I think we get it as close to right as I’ve experienced it. Children’s choir and older siblings of penitents numbered close to forty. No parish I’ve been associated with has managed numbers with that priority: it’s a tribute to Cheryl our outstanding director. Many of the choristers took advantage of the opportunity to go to confession. That is always heartening to see.
The music was straight-forward: Marty Haugen’s “Be Merciful” at Entrance, an alleluia before the gospel reading, and a concluding song, “Somebody’s Knockin’ At Your Door.” The second graders also had a song prepared. I’m not a fan of sacramental recipients “performing,” but this was a nice simple piece that fit. I played piano during the reconciliation time, but I let two of the girls in the choir take a turn at the keyboard.
Still, there were some aspects a little frustrating about the whole experience: the usual parents’ chatter, mainly. But it is nice to have them.
Especially this year, I question leaving the usual Advent & Lent penance observances as they are. Our two school reconciliation services have been scheduled two months apart: the 11th of December and February. Then it will be ten months more till next Advent’s service. I can imagine the low turnout from deanery priests–not to mention grumbling– if we did school penance services four times a year, which would seem about right to me.
I think we do the kids no favors by segregating their sacramental experience in reconciliation from their families. A whole generation has grown accustomed to communal penance like they have pep rallies, DARE training, or scout meetings. How many adults continue those activities. And bring their kids.
Problem is, I don’t see bishops and clergy too concerned about it. Sometimes it seems all they’re concerned about is their experience “in the box” or at the end of the line. Not many seem to grasp the big picture, especially bishops.