First Reconciliation Preparation
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy that frees us from our sins and also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the Rite of Penance we read that the sacrament is a liturgical action. It is the Church’s opportunity to celebrate the presence of God in those areas of our lives needing conversion and forgiveness.
Formation for the celebration of first reconciliation involves the cooperative efforts of parents, pastors, catechists and children. It is a time when a person is able to encounter a loving and merciful God. The focus of any formation must be on developing and growing a strong mature conscience. Because people grow in different ways and the awareness of sin becomes evident at different times in different people, the time of sacramental celebration should be based on personal readiness. The candidate should be prepared in such a way that the ritual celebration is a joyful celebration, more than a memorized experience. “Catechesis for children prior to their first reception of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation must always respect their natural disposition, ability, age and circumstances” (National Directory for Catechesis, 36).
“It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason (around seven) are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession” (Code of Canon Law, 914). “Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time” (Catechism of the Catholic Church,1457).
Readiness of the individual child includes:
- The ability of the child to distinguish between right and wrong;
- The awareness of the need for forgiveness and trust in Jesus’ forgiving love;
- The ability to express sorrow;
- The ability of the child to describe wrongdoing in his or her own words;
- The ability to ask for forgiveness.
Immediate preparation for a child’s first Reception of Reconciliation helps children to:
- Acknowledge God’s unconditional love for us
- Turn to Christ and he Church for sacramental forgiveness and reconciliation
- Recognize the presence of good and evil in the world and their personal capacity for both
- Recognize their need for forgiveness, not only from parents and others close to them, but from God
- Understand how to celebrate the Rite of Reconciliation
- Understand that ‘sacramental confession is a means offered children of the Church to obtain pardon for sin, and furthermore that it is even necessary per se if one has fallen into serious sin.” (General Catechetical Directory, Addendum #3) (National Directory for Catechesis #36 B – 2)