It is the time of year for First Holy Communion and therefore the time for me to hear the first confessions of children.
It is therefore also the time for me to renew my own wonder and love of this simple and powerful sacrament.
I sometimes hear people say, “Well, they’re only in second grade. What terrible mortal sins have they committed?”
What I learn from the children is that they have a keen and alert awareness of sin. They know they have been disobedient, selfish and lazy. They know they have been mean to other children, hurt their brothers and sisters, cheated on tests, lied to their teachers and that they have done wrong.
I learn therefore that the keen and innocent child also has a keen and innocent conscience. They don’t overlook their sins or gloss over their shortcomings. They don’t whitewash and justify and lessen their sin like adults do.
I learn from them how to come to the sacrament of confession with an open mind and an open heart.
But there is more to it.
I see that from this young age the children are receiving a great and wonderful blessing. They are receiving the knowledge that we live in a moral universe–that there is such a thing as right and wrong. From this early age they are learning to discern what is right and wrong and why it is right and wrong.
It is easy to underestimate the value of these lessons. In a relativistic world where people follow “what works for you” and “my truth” the child learns that there are objective values and clear commands.
This gives them a sure footing in the storms of life. It gives them a moral rock on which to built and a compass to steer by.
When an eight year old goes to make his first confession he accepts a moral universe and if the moral universe, then one who governs that universe.
There is another cosmic truth wrapped up in that simple ceremony that only takes a few moments… Continue Reading