“Confession has been my habitual homecoming since I was a child. It is a consolation and a joy, and such joy, our faith teaches us, is meant for everyone. It is our vocation to bring it to as many people as possible.” ~ Donald Wuerl
There are many “firsts” in our lives: first crush, first job, first car, first date, et cetera. Some of our firsts have been quite exhilarating. Some may have been quite terrifying. Today, for our third grade parishioners, is most likely a combination of both. First Confession is both exhilarating and terrifying. There is a great anxiety about having to go into “the box” and tell a priest our sins. There is also a great sense of relief when we hear the priest say those magic, consoling words, “I absolve you from your sins…”
As a priest, I also try to make the experience of First Confession as positive as possible. I go out into the church ahead of time and “work the crowd”. I joke with the children to help break the ice. When I speak with them, I recognize the nerves, fear, and tension. I let them know it is something that has been shared by all the adults that have made their confessions. I let them know those feelings are natural. I also let them know that God is bigger than their fears and can take all of that away from them if they ask Him to do so.
God does love us incredibly. He knows our anxiety about coming to Him in confession. He knows that it is humbling, perhaps even embarrassing or humiliating, to confess to another person that we have sinned. Yet the other person to whom we confess stands in the stead of Christ. That other person is there to listen and to absolve. The priest is trained in the seminary to understand the perspective of the penitent (after all, we are penitents as well) and, in dealing with others, to be compassionate and merciful, just as the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
God does not want us to be afraid to come to Him and to seek His forgiveness. That is why He gave the authority to forgive sins to His priests. He knows that we often deal better with things that we are able to see and hear. Confessing to a priests and hearing the priest absolve us can give great comfort.
Do not be afraid of God. It might not be your first confession; but, most parishes have confessions on Saturday afternoons. Is it time, perhaps, for you to return to the sacrament?
FAITH ACTION: Please pray for our parish children who make their First Confession today that their experience be a positive and joy-filled one.