After Awana last night, Big Girl was talking to me about her friend's difficulty with Confession. The friend had told Big Girl that every night, she thought about her sins and asked Jesus to forgive her. Somehow, from there, they got into Confession and Big Girl's friend told her that it didn't work.
Naturally, that bothered Big Girl, but not because she doubted the Sacrament; it bothered her because she wasn't sure how to explain and help her friend to understand.
I started off by telling her that what her friend does every night is actually an old Catholic custom. We can, as a part of our bedtime prayers, examine our consciences and then say an Act of Contrition. It is actually a very good practice to be in, and I am hoping that I can get our family into such a habit.
We discussed a bit of the history of Confession, about Jesus breathing on the Apostles and saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven; whose sins you retain are retained." We talked about the laying on of hands and its history throughout the Bible - how it's a very real imparting of power on behalf of God. We talked about how the Bible implores us to "confess [our] sins to one another." We discussed that Jesus forgives our sins through the priest; He acts through him to forgive us. Basically, we reviewed the material that Big Girl had already learned. But it was mostly new to Little Girl, who begins her first grade Catechism in earnest next week. (With Seton's first grade religious education, she'll begin her preparation for First Confession and First Holy Communion.)
But then, Big Girl told me something really beautiful. She said that when she goes to Confession, she imagines something very clearly in her mind.
She envisions herself kneeling before the priest (or behind the screen), eyes closed, hands folded, head bowed down so that the curve of her nose rests on her hands. She is awaiting absolution, and as the priest puts his hand up to make the Sign of the Cross and bless her, Jesus is there, too, kind of misty, and behind the priest. As the priest continues with absolution, Jesus goes right through the priest, as though He is becoming One with him at that moment. And then, they forgive her together.
I told her it was a beautiful picture. It's accurate! It's wonderful! And I said that it was just the thing to think of at Confession.
And this is the child whose spiritual life I worry about?
I think that still waters run deep. And I think she's getting much more than I thought.