First Reconciliation

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.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to First Reconciliation

  1. Liam says:

    I agree that bishops seem not to care about improving the quality (individual and liturgical) of the administration and experience of this wonderful sacrament. It seems they make an annual perfunctory exhortation in their Lenten messages and leave it at that.

    You know my recommendation: Form 1 weekly and by appointment (because it should always be frequently available for those who discern they are in a state of grave sin) and Form 2 monthly (which is remains the most commonly recommended period for other penitents, reflecting centuries of experience). The attendance is not the driver of this line of thought; the driver should be the abundance of God’s grace and mercy in the objective sacraments.

  2. Darwin says:

    How are the children’s and parents’ confessions being separated in most experience? Aren’t the families expected to make it confession every few weeks on their own?

    Though perhaps I’m not the right demographic, my family growing up (and my household now) generally shunned the big “reconciliation services” which seemed like zoo full of people not paying attention, and quickie confession with a priest who probably didn’t speak your language anyway, and went to normally scheduled confessions every month or two.

    I suppose I haven’t read up on this, so I don’t know if there’s been some attempt to push the big communal services as preferable, but is there any reason to think of these as anything other than a way to try to push those who don’t tend to go on their own to make it at least a couple times a year?

  3. Liam says:

    There’s no big push for the “big communal services” that I am aware of. They tend to only be in Lent and sometimes Advent. I think that’s unfortunate; if they were monthly, any circus quality of them would tend to fade and allow the liturgical celebration of the sacrament (and sacraments in the ROman rite are normally celebrated liturgically rather than a-liturgically as in the case of Form 1 – and how often is even the formal fullness of Form 1 offered?) to become more ordinary and less extraordinary. That’s my reasoning, for what it’s worth.

  4. Todd says:

    “How are the children’s and parents’ confessions being separated in most experience?”

    Schools usually provide communal services–pretty much from gr 2 through 12. Parents rarely bring those kids with them to either form I or form II. In my experience, the segregation is nearly complete.

  5. Darwin says:

    Huh. Maybe it’s because we only have an RE program, not an attached schoool, but I don’t think we ever have kids-only communal services. And it’s pretty standard to see whole families in line for confession on Thursday and Saturday evenings. I think the priest may also open up for individual confessions after RE and Youth Group, but we certainly don’t have separate “penance services” by age group. That does indeed sound like a terrible idea.

    Maybe I’m a little confused, but what’s the “formal fullness” of form 1 that you’re referring to as being rare? (One of the reasons for my preference for form 1 is that form 2 seems so much briefer and less personal.)

  6. Liam says:


    Does your Form 1 begin with “Bless me, Father” and proceed as was customarily the case before the Council? Or does it include a greeting, reading from Scripture, et cet.?

  7. Darwin says:

    Well, never let it be said I don’t learn anything here, because this sent me over to the USCCB site to read up and see what the differences between confession before and after V2 were, since I’d never thought about that.

    That said, the answer is that (although it depends a bit whether the priest is in a hurry) the form is generally, greeting, quick prayer (which I think sometimes is one of the 1-2 line scripture passages mentioned on the USCCB website) ending in, “May the Lord help you make a good confession.”

    Then confession of sins, brief discussion (occasionally a relevant reading here, but only if the priest has time on his hands or you seem really troubled), act of contrition, absolution, final prayer and dismissal. Which sounds like a lot for something that generally takes about five minutes, but all the parts are short.

    Incidentally, I was amused to discover that what I had scorned as a “children’s version” of the act of contrition is in fact the “prayer of the penitant” listed for the sacremant on the USCCB website. I’d always stuck with the “O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…” one which I’d learned from my folks, though, which I guess is a pre-conciliar version.

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