Pastor Corner for February 16, 2014
This past Saturday, February eighth, twenty-four of our parish children received the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation for the first time. The children and their families gathered in the Church at 10:00am for a penance prayer service and individual confessions. Four prayer stations were set up around the perimeter of the Church and the families proceeded with their child from one to the other after the child received the sacrament.
In his homily, Fr John used a baptismal bib, colored water and a bleach pen to show how our souls are soiled by sin after our baptism. The soiled water served as examples of various sins we all commit such as, anger (red water), envy (green water), and pride (yellow water). Fr. John marked the baptismal bib with a stain after naming each of these sins. The baptismal bib clearly showed the stains and Fr. John told the children that our souls clearly show the stain of these sins when we commit them and any other sins. Our souls can eventually become gray and even black if we don’t seek to clean them. Fr. John showed how the baptismal bib can be cleaned in the laundry by using bleach or a bleach pen. Our souls need the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation to remove the stains of sins and when we receive the absolution from the priest in the sacrament, we can be sure that the stains are removed from our souls.
After private confession, the families went to the baptismal font, recalled the baptism of this child and prayed together. The baptismal font is where this journey began about seven years ago in each child’s life and it was appropriate that they re-visit the font and the promises they made that day. The next station gave the families an opportunity to pray a Family Blessing Prayer together. Our faith journey is best traveled with family, friends and our parish community to support one another. The First Penance child also received a Crucifix from the parish community to hang in their bedroom as a reminder of Jesus saving love and as a gift to remember the day. At the third station, thanks to Jim Grennon, the families had their picture taken with their child holding a relic of the True Cross. The families were deeply moved by this experience of holding and venerating a piece of the cross that Jesus died upon. At the last station, each of the First Penance children lit a candle and prayed with their parents that they would always be a light to the world that shines as brightly each day as it did on the day of their baptism .
These families celebrated this sacrament of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and love with joy in their hearts that was evident on their faces. The children were excited to confess, receive absolution and grace from their first experience of Penance and are a great incentive to us, as adults to approach the confessional with joy, hope and love. Leave the fear and pride at the door! Jesus awaits us with arms outstretched ready to embrace us, forgive us and set us free from all the burdens we carry in our hearts. God wants that for us. Why wouldn’t we want that for ourselves!