September is the time to get ready
for catechizing and celebrating first sacraments. This is especially
true if we are hoping to allow these sacramental occasions to touch
the faith life of more than just our youngsters.
The celebration of first sacraments is an opportunity
to catechize the parents and family of the child, as well as other
adults in the parish. We can do this by taking time to meet with
catechists before classes begin and by carefully planning the parents'
preparation meeting. These prerequisites are especially necessary
when preparing children for First Reconciliation.
Today's textbooks and family catechetical series
do a great job of presenting the Sacrament of Penance in an upbeat,
positive way. But sometimes catechists or parents can color a child's
viewpoint, even unintentionally, with words and examples that reflect
their own, perhaps less positive attitudes. We must try to ensure
that everyone involved in preparing and celebrating with the children
makes a conscious effort to present the sacrament as the positive,
life-giving gift it is meant to be.
It is important
to follow sound catechetical process in both catechist and parent
meetings. Begin with the person's experience, connect that experience
to what we hope to teach, provide the appropriate theological and
scriptural references and invite each person to apply the teaching
to his or her own life:
A person's own experienceLet
folks talk about their early and current experiences of the Sacrament
of Penance. (Non-Catholic parents can share their perception of
the sacrament from the media and what others have said.) Share in
groups of two or three.
The new ideaHistory is a great
teacher, especially in this case. The history of the Sacrament of
Penance can serve as a bridge to a healthier understanding of the
here for a brief history of the sacrament.)
Scripture and theologyChoose
Scripture readings that emphasize the loving nature of God. The
story of the prodigal son is always good (Luke 15:11-32). Check
out the sample retreat offered in the Every Family column
below for a way to explain what a sacrament is.
Applying to one's lifeTake
some quiet time for reflection. Give participants one or two questions
to reflect and share. Suggestions: What was the most significant
thing you heard? In what way, if any, has your view of Penance changed?
of catechizing and celebrating a sacrament often depends on the
time spent beforehand talking about what the sacrament and the sacramental
experience mean. Taking that time can result in all sorts of good
outcomes. I know that I discover new things each year. The children
receive a more complete catechesis and parents and parish members
are given an opportunity to understand and celebrate the sacraments
on another level.