Yesterday was Dante's 1st Reconciliation.(Old School Translation-confession.) This whole year in second grade has been working towards this point-as well as 1st Communion-which takes place in May. Everyone was very excited and a bit apprehensive. The boys were all spiffed up in button-down shirts and ties and shiny shoes. The girls had on colorful dresses and ribbons in their hair. They all looked and acted so grown up. Our church has a special Saturday Mass just for the occasion. The priests, the second grade teacher and principal all took Saturday to be with our children.
I'm a Catholic Convert, I never went to confession until I converted over 10 years ago. I never got to wear the pretty white 1st Communion Dresses I so coveted as a child. I didn't participate in CCD or get to complain about the annoyances of twice a week catechism. I just have vague pleasant memories of going to a Catholic Church with a girlfriend and being in awe of the litergy, the genuflection, the incense and the pagantry of the Mass. I remember walking through the snow as a child, oblivious to winter's biting winds, in anticipation of the Mardi Gras celebrations held yearly at Trinity Catholic High School about two blocks from my house in North Dakota. Catholicism was a foreign but not unpleasant, concept and place. I have learned as much these days about my 'new found' faith, as my 8 year old son. As our children filed into the sanctuary yesterday, I felt the tears begin to come. I felt so embarrassed by this. I'm only 1 of 3 converted parents in our class. Everyone else are Cradle Catholics and have the liturgy in their blood. They know it's there but, like all things familiar, don't notice it. So I was embarassed by my sentimentality.
I can still be moved to tears when entering our Church. But then again, I am easily moved by secular things as well. A beautiful sunset, a solitary flower growing up through the rocks. Doggy kisses. So I was feeling uncomfortable with the profound lump in my throat and quickly filling eyes. I was trying to understate this Sacrament, tried to tell myself I was being sentimental-until I looked at my best friend from St. Francis and a life long Catholic. Her eyes were filling too. Our eyes met and then both our tears began to fall. We squeezed each others hands and just let the water works begin. Our husbands looked at us, as uncomfortable with our tears as we were before we started crying in earnest. Once the tears started, they could not be stopped. Tracy and I were the crying pioneers because as soon as we started blowing our noses, we heard lots of sniffling all around us. (Allan says I started all the Mommy's crying. ) Once I stopped trying to supress them, I was able to understand what they were about.
Reconciliation is, to me, probably the most important Sacrament of all. We live in a world that is full of judgement. Many Christian sermons are based on judgement, too. It is so easy to focus on our faults and the faults of others. When we do this, however, we are not open to God's mercy. We are not open to the healing, creative, loving forces of the universe. If we aren't focusing on LOVE, we miss it's subtleties. Reconciliation is about LOVE. It is about God's mercy, about us being able to put aside our pride and defensiveness and speak OUT LOUD our failings. The power of words, and speech in particular, has been known for centuries. The ancient Jews didn't even SPEAK God's name. It was too powerful. So to say aloud, our failings and our true intent to do better, is a strong show of faith. Faith that God HEARS us. Faith that we CAN and WILL do better because we are made in His Image. When we confess our sins (what we have done, and what we have failed to do) we are seeing ourselves more clearly so we can then be our True selves for God.
And then there's the part of my 1st born growing up....