A Communal Celebration of Reconciliation
… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ….
Last week, we celebrated Ryland’s First Reconciliation. Parents, children and families were gathered in the church. First we sang a gathering song to remind us of what we were celebrating. Then Father welcomed us and said a few words. One of the things he said that struck me was that Reconciliation has become a lost Sacrament. He also emphasized the positive role of this sacrament in reconciling personal conflict and healing our relationships. And that’s when I understood why there was a separate celebration for Reconciliation and it wasn’t celebrated together with the First Communion, which Ryland will receive in the Spring.
Father read the Parable of the Lost Sheep according to Luke 15: 1-7. Ryland and the other children have learned this story while preparing for this Sacrament.
Father explained that we were celebrating a communal Reconciliation. He said, “You do not have to say, ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been forever since I had my last confession.’ We know that. We won’t give you individual penance. Instead we will sing and pray as a group.”
We recited the Act of Contrition. The children have learned this by heart.
“O God, rich in mercy, I am sorry for all my sins; for what I have done and what I have failed to do. I will sincerely try to do better. Help me to walk by your light. Amen.”
After the Act of Contrition, Father and another priest stood by the altar. We came forward row by row as we do for communion. Parents brought their children to the priest, holding the child’s sheep. (The children made sheep out of cardboard, cotton balls and clothespins.) Parents waited a short distance away. Father leaned over to each child and asked, “What do you want to say ‘I’m sorry’ for to God?” The child then whispered one or two sins into Father’s ear. Father then gave his absolution and the child said, “Thank you, Father.”
The children returned to their parents and are handed their sheep to place on the banner by the altar. Then they went back to their places and took a few moments to thank God for the gift of forgiveness. Parents were also given the chance to have their confession. Hymns were sung while we had our turns.
The children went to the back of the church to get their candles. The catechist helped them light the candles and they brought them in procession to the altar to show that they walk in the light.
We then prayed the Lord’s Prayer.
At the end of the celebration, Father gave us his blessing and said, “Go in peace, your sins have been forgiven.”
And we all said, “Thanks be to God.”
We then continued the celebration of our joy in forgiveness with a feast at the school hall where parents dropped off their dainties (cup cakes, cookies, veggies and dip, cheese and crackers) which was shared by all. Father also joined us and chatted with the parents.
I think this Reconciliation had been a pleasant experience for the children and parents as well.
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