Out of the Mouths of Babes: Reliving Our First Confession

Our Father’s arms are wide open. Christ’s arms are nailed wide open. “Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of your love!”

Photo: Maurizio OM Ongaro, “Confessionale Basilica Sant'Ambrogio Milano”, 2014
Photo: Maurizio OM Ongaro, “Confessionale Basilica Sant'Ambrogio Milano”, 2014 (photo: Public Domain)

“When I don’t pray, I don’t really feel like being good,” our almost six-year-old son Andre explained. His older sister Zelie agreed. It is hard to be good. “Why is it so easy to be bad and so hard to be good?!,” she lamented. Out of the mouths of babes! And just like that these little babies grew up. It seemed like yesterday they were, literally, babies, and now, they were ready for their first confession.

As parents we looked back at our first confessions and found there were a few similarities. We both remember the seriousness of it. We memorized our Act of Contrition. We recall the flurry of activity that day, the dark room, trying to figure out the whole process, being scared, an elderly priest, absolution in Latin, and ultimately the beginning of a merciful  journey of falling down and getting up over and over again.

We wanted our eldest children’s first confession to be a joyful family encounter with Mercy itself. In addition to the classes offered at church we read and discussed all the great stories of encountering the mercy of God: the abrupt calling of St. Matthew, the stunning forgiveness offered to the woman who had great sins, and the intimate friendship offered to Zacchaeus. “Come and follow me… go and sin no more … today I am coming to your house!” God, how you love us!  We discussed over and over again, in our children’s words, the reality of good choices, bad choices, accidents, and mistakes in light of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Our Father’s arms are wide open. Christ’s arms are nailed wide open. “Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of your love!”

A day that we will remember as a renewal of our family commitment to become saints, is the day that they recited, by memory, and seemingly from the heart, their Act of Contrition. We read it every day as a prayer as well as in preparation for going into Our Father’s house for confession. It was beautiful to hear their young voices recite over and over again the words that the Church suggests to us. “I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love…” The sentiment of these words has been at the heart of every conversion and the floodgate of grace for every sinner.

We went as a family that day to the Church and met father at the confessional. Those young ones who had recently reached the age of reason took their turn and quietly shared their sins with God our Father through His Son in the form of a Sacrament.

The children went in with smiles but came out grinning. Zelie informed us that she felt like a butterfly, possibly even a feather. We all know the feeling! This is just the beginning for them. On this day we beg, “Please God may this be the beginning of a lifetime for them of being instructed and formed by their encounter with you who are Mercy itself!”

After we all went to confession, and said our penance, we all headed over to the nearby Gelateria aptly named, “Carpe Diem.” Just like that, in one hour we all felt lighter, renewed in our resolve to choose good and avoid whatever leads to sin. Just like a butterfly, and possibly even a feather, blown by the breath of God. Speak, Lord — your servant is listening.