Last week the young people with whom I have been working in preparation for Confirmation participated in a Reconciliation Service.
The entered the church anxious and unsure of what to do and what to expect. For those of us who work with young people this comes as no surprise; the sacrament of Reconciliation is not high on their priorities. Many, unless they attend Catholic Schools, might have only vague memories of their first reconciliation just before making their first Holy Communion.
‘Do I go into the box?’ – if you want to.
‘What do I say? I haven’t learnt that prayer.’ – it’s ok it’s on your sheet.
‘What if I forget what to say?’ – ask the priest to help you.
‘I can’t tell him, it’s too awful’ – Oh my dear child, and I gave her a hug.
And so after the Gospel and a guided examination of conscience based upon it* all the Candidates accepted the invitation for personal confession. Sitting in such a prayerful silence, they thought about their life with the Lord, entered into His love and sought His forgiveness.
It was a graced moment.
Now I have to come clean. I like the Sacrament of Reconciliation: I like the promise, I like the theology, I like the symbol, I like imagery, I like the Rite and the Ritual. However that is not to say I find it easy. ‘Fessing up to stuff is never easy, but I do believe that it is easier to confess, to seek forgiveness than not. Of course a good Confessor is important and I have chosen mine carefully. I have been with my Spiritual Director and Confessor for almost 10 years – there is not much he doesn’t know. He sees the patterns I miss, he holds the bigger picture when I become mired down, he reminds me of the hope when I despair.
It is through prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation that I have come to know the God of second chances. No matter what we have done, or failed to do, the Lord calls, invites, nudges us time and time again to repent, to turn back to the Him. As in the story of the Prodigal Son He waits for us, even humiliating Himself by hitching up his robes and running to meet us, clasping us in His unconditional forgiving embrace.
prodigal father christian sculpture by Tom White
We are all as Ignatius calls us ‘loved sinners’ and therefore it is possible to approach the sacrament as one that is of help to our faith journey rather than something that shames and humiliates.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the many signs of God’s love for us, and God loves us with such an abundant love that we need not fear when we feel the Lord gently drawing us back to be the person we are called to be.
*Here is the examination of conscience based on Matthew 5:13-16.
If you use it and find it helpful please drop me a message.
YOU ARE the salt of the earth.
When have you failed to make a positive contribution to your
To your family? To your school?
To your relationships?
When have you failed to keep something fresh?
When have you allowed a relationship to go stale through inattention?
How do you keep your relationship with the Lord from going stale?
Salt cleanses/ purifies:
When is it difficult to speak out in moral situations?
When have you talked about someone? Spreading gossip, dirtying someone’s
When have you spread untruths about someone to feel better about yourself?
Salt adds buoyancy:
How often do you allow yourself to come before the Lord and just be?
How does your behaviour keep others afloat?
Salt increases thirst:
Does your behaviour invite others to ask about Jesus?
Salt is valuable:
Do you believe you are made in the image and likeness of God?
How does this affect your actions?
Where do you not value in yourself?
What do you really value? When has your focus been on things of little value?
When have you allowed an invitation to make a difference slip through your hands?
When have you not been gentle with yourself or others?
When have you been too loud? Too self righteous? Unwilling to listen to others?
When have you behaved in a way that is unhealthy for you? Your relationship with others? With the Lord?
YOU ARE the Light of the World
Light illuminates: Where do you take the Light of Christ for granted?
When are you aware of needing Light to help you?
It cannot be hidden:
What actions would you like to hide from the light?
How often do you ignore what Christ reveals to you?
Where have you not comforted those in need?
Where do you not allow the truth to shine through?
What stops you from being truly beautiful?
When do you cause others to stumble?
What stops you from being a guide?
Light creates shadow:
Which actions work out of your shadow side?
Feel free to use this examination of conscience with groups but please remember to reference me, thanks.