This is the first in a series of blog posts from Sarah on sacraments.
As I look out the window at another measurable amount of snow, it feels like the winter that waited to arrive now has no intention of leaving. Hello there, March in Minnesota! If we don’t like to live life in the unpredictable lane, we probably shouldn’t live here.
One good way to get through winter is when you have exciting upcoming events for which to prepare and to which you can look forward. This is the season we’ve been planning for at my house since last Fall. Sometimes family seasons correspond like beautiful clockwork and tie into one another. Sometimes your family is spread out in a fashion that makes it a bumper, back-to-back Sacrament year. 2011 happened to be one of those years. Our daughter Gianna was born in February and baptized in March, the same month our older daughter, Lily, received her First Reconciliation and later, her First Communion in May. This year, Gianna will receive her First Reconciliation and First Communion and Lily, Confirmation.
It’s interesting the way God gives you these little nods, sprinkling your seasons with ways to grow spiritually, especially through teaching and guiding your children. As we’ve walked the journey of getting ready these last few months, I’ve done so perhaps more gently with my little thinker, my observant and cautious daughter. Maybe it’s because I’ve done this two times before and learned. Maybe it’s that I just want to teach her how to love Jesus, how much He treasures her and wants to be present in her life. I want her to know Him. I want her to rely on His friendship and foster that relationship at this young age, growing in a deep desire for Him in the Eucharist.
She’s maybe not there yet. I don’t think she has to be. The seeds of faith need time to grow and mature. What she needs to find is her love and understanding for the Catholic Church and to see it through the heart of Jesus who loves His children. She laughed when we watched the Blessed DVD (from Dynamic Catholic) that showed Jesus driving a bus, stopping to pick up the child who had begun their journey of faith walking, then riding a bike and finally hopping on the bus with Jesus. It was referring to Jesus stopping to help us along the way by giving us grace and by offering us the sacraments. While perhaps silly to an adult, Gianna made a connection with that bus driving Jesus. I’ve used that lesson several more times in talking about the gift of reconciliation in our lives, returning to it often, unashamed and ready to get on the bus with Jesus and receive more grace.
After having her big day—First Reconciliation—rescheduled due to snow, one week later we finally found ourselves in the pews waiting. Her face innocent and revealing no nerves or apprehension, although she did say she was “a little nervous”. Father and the religious education teachers led the students and parents present in prayer and scripture prior to their individual reconciliations. The students were then divided, with five students off to the side awaiting confession and the rest of the group on the other side of church discussing and reading bible stories. I asked if Gianna could be part of the first group since she was eager to get in there and not lose her gumption. She ended up going first out of all the students and enthusiastically walked into the sacristy confessional. A few minutes later, my quiet and composed little girl walked out and this mom felt her heart swell.
As each student came out from their first reconciliation, they were handed a candle wick that was lit from the Easter candle and they lit a small votive candle. Each child then took their candle and placed it on the altar before returning to their pew to pray their penance. It was a beautiful scene to see all of those colorful candles on the altar brightening it up as it became more radiant with each votive.
Those students had all sorts of reactions that afternoon: the eager to get it over child, the reluctant, the happy smiler, the wide-eyed wonderer, the distracted and the poker face penitent. What was evident though was that Jesus was present, He had revealed Himself to each of those children in varying ways and left an impression on their now clean souls.
As I told Gianna, her soul became like that pure white, fluffy snow covering the ground, making her new. This miserable weather turns out to be a unique and symbolic time after all. When another storm bringing fresh snow paints a pretty picture while I’m telling her how beautiful and glistening her soul is for Jesus.