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March 07, 2012
Celebrate God's Forgiveness
Faith Formation Update continues to offer free monthly encouragement and direction for catechetical ministry within the classroom and beyond. I’m Jeanne Hunt. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my “ Every Family” column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers media resources and ideas in her “ Seen and Heard” column. Our co-worker Angela Glassmeyer suggests other faith formation resources for adults in her column, “Sowing Sampler.”

IN THIS EDITION: Join us as we offer practical ways to encourage participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation this Lent. Let’s work to take some of the fear and anxiety out of what the Church rightly calls a “celebration.”

FOR SHARING AND DISCUSSION: Share your ideas and questions on our Faith Formation Forum.
* How do you feel about the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?
* What have you done / What can you do to overcome any uncomfortable feelings
   you may have about this sacrament so that you can truly experience it as a
* What ideas do you have for encouraging others to participate in this sacrament?

Models of Mercy
If we want our children to understand the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, we need to start with the concepts of sorrow and forgiveness. When we’re sorry, God extends a hand of forgiveness. God’s mercy and forgiveness is a grace no one deserves yet everyone receives because God is love. When we understand that there is a “wideness in God’s mercy,” our lives change and we can honestly embrace a fresh start.

Parents and catechists need to model forgiveness in the ways we respond to our children’s sorrow. Family members and classmates should be encouraged to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” whenever possible. We can remind our children that they cannot completely undo the wrong they have done, but they can choose to do better in the future. When we live the words of the Rite of Penance and Reconciliation in our homes and classrooms, what takes place in church makes sense.
Online Catalog
An Intriguing Sacrament
Recently, I was in a bookstore checking on how our books are selling there. To my surprise, one title was flying off the shelf: Catholic Update Guide to Confession. The clerk told me that Catholics and non-Catholics alike are very interested in this mysterious rite. Some Catholics, who last celebrated this sacrament years ago and now feel a void in their lives, seem to want to bone up on their facts before they return to the sacrament.

This little book makes it easy to understand why the Church celebrates God’s forgiveness in this manner. It’s a great book for catechists who teach about this sacrament, for parents of children who are preparing to celebrate it, for RCIA candidates who will celebrate it for the first time very soon, and even for those of other faiths who simply want to know about one of the best-kept secrets in the Catholic Church.
Online Catalog
Celebrating Our Reconciling God

I’m no expert on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, but I do know a fair amount about sinning and, thankfully, about God’s forgiveness. Most of us aren’t committing mortal or even serious sin in a regular way, but we each are guilty of daily actions and omissions that put our will ahead of God’s will.

While serious and mortal sins might be characterized as boulders or roadblocks on our paths to God, our venial sins are like pebbles. As they accumulate, they cause us to stumble. Think of how much discomfort just one creates when it gets in your shoe! As we examine our consciences, we pick up these pebbles and find our pockets heavy with these “small” sins.

Helping Catholics celebrate this sacrament is one of a priest’s most meaningful ministries. Perhaps since many of us feel awkward and anxious as we approach the sacrament, most priests try all the harder to convey God’s warmth, welcome, and desire to help us be reconciled with God and others.

I like the communal celebrations of this sacrament. There, I see that I’m not alone in my struggles to put God first in my life. We each still confess our sins to the priest, but we do so simply and quickly—often in sight (but out of hearing range) of the gathered community.

A great resource for helping teens and adults prepare for participation in the communal rite of Penance and Reconciliation is The Church Celebrates the Reconciling God. I’ve selected a sample from its teaching segment (Windows Media) to share with you.

Use this video program with RCIA candidates, at sacramental preparation meetings for parents, and with adult and high school faith formation groups. Spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness as celebrated in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation!

Franciscan Radio
Returning to the Sacrament

A man I know recently went to confession for the first time in about 25 years. He was nervous and unsure, but the priest was very kind. He came away from the experience with a deep sense of relief—as if a heavy burden had been lifted from him.

I wonder how many people need this experience but don’t seek it out because they’re afraid. They may think, “It’s been so long, I can’t remember what to do” or “It’s been so many years, I’m embarrassed to go.”

Helping people get over their fears and anxiety about this sacrament is one of the best things you can do. I recommend sharing the small book How to Go to Confession When You Don’t Know How by Ann LeBlanc. It’s presented with humor, practicality, and a deeply spiritual appreciation of the sacrament. The reader gets a step-by-step description of how to participate in the sacrament, helpful tips about what to say, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Here’s an excerpt:
“When Father John first mentioned the Sacrament of Reconciliation to me, I thought, ‘Wow. They even invented a new sacrament while I was gone.’ Once he had clarified the situation, my next thought was, ‘I’ve got to throw up,’ followed by, ‘I’m outta’ here.’”

Here are a couple other resources you mind find helpful:
Why Go to Confession?
Catholic Update: “Ten Tips for Better Confessions


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