Chapter Four: God Helps Me Get It Right (Reconciliation)

In this chapter we are helping the children to understand that Jesus always helped people to make a change. Saying sorry/forgiveness is about sorting things out, and rebuilding friendships, as we saw in Chapter 3. But forgiveness is also about using the opportunity to make things right – to make a life-change in order to move towards a better future, by choosing a better path.

We also look at what takes place during the Sacrament itself – what actually happens when we go to see a priest to receive this Sacrament. When we “confess” our sins – meaning we confide in the priest (who is standing in the place of Jesus) – we should do so with confidence that the blessing we receive gives us the help for the times we “get it wrong” and new strength to “get it right”. Do remember that, your child’s First Reconciliation is one of the seven Sacraments and an essential step to be able to receive First Holy Communion. It is a Sacrament they can receive as often as they like. It is a beautiful gift that can be revisited again and again.

NB Please remember, the children will only be making their First Reconciliations in April, so use this chapter as an introduction to this amazing Sacrament and keep practicing forgiveness and self-reflection during daily life. The themes of God’s love and forgiveness are also central to our faith and at the heart of the Mass, so you will find a number of links as we go through the content of the children’s book. We will provide you with a recap sheet about Reconciliation and the Reconciliation Service itself nearer the time.

Some questions to ask

Most of these are open ended and should be used to help your child explore these ideas/their feelings:

Q. What could you not do when you were younger, but can now do more easily?
A. Ride a bike, tie a shoelace, swim without help, help with cooking in the kitchen, roller skate, skate-boarding or play tennis without help, knit or draw without assistance, play a musical instrument, dress myself, brush my teeth – there are many examples here to use. Emphasise how hard it is when we get things wrong – it can be painful sometimes. Sometimes we don’t want to accept people’s help and it is not always easy to acknowledge that we needed help to get better at something. But how wonderful it is when we get it right!

Q. Who helps you when things are difficult? Who do you ask?
A. Answers will vary – but teachers, parents, sports coaches, policemen, lollipop ladies etc are all people that your child might want to talk about as being helpful in teaching us life lessons.

Q. In what way did Zacchaeus change? How did he feel after meeting Jesus?
A. Encourage your child to answer this by finding words to describe what he was like before and after meeting Jesus. eg. Before meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus was greedy, selfish, treated people badly, a cheat. After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus was more humble, sorry, generous. Money wasn’t so important anymore, and he was ready to be friends with others again. He also realised Jesus cared for him and loved him.

Q. Can you think of a time where you have been sorry (had contrition) for something you did? OR Can remember how it felt to be forgiven by someone?
A. It may take time for your child to think this through and find an answer. Make it into a conversation with your child, by also sharing with them your own examples of feeling bad for having done something. This will help them identify
their own examples. Sharing a positive example of the joy of being forgiven will be a great witness to them.

Suggested Activities

  • Page 34, 35 & 36 – Here, we want to help our children look at daily life and think about the people who helps us learn and develop our skills and get things right if we need correcting. e.g., Teachers help pupils with spelling if they are not doing it correctly. Parents teach children not to snatch toys and policemen show children to cross roads safely, so they are not endangered. Remember, to show the difference between skills we have to learn to do for ourselves eg. riding a bike and the “life skills” we need to learn eg. kindness or sharing. We also want to emphasise the point that – aside from practising something to get really good at it – there is a person helping us (people in our lives mirror God, who helps us “get it right” in our spiritual life). God knows it can be hard to admit we need help, but he forgives us instantly, so we mustn’t worry about saying that we have done something wrong. God always wants to help us.
  • Page 37, 38 & 39 – Bible Story: Zacchaeus – It like the Forgiving Father and the Lost Sheep, but now the story is about a real person who is “lost”, whom Jesus reaches out to and helps to make a change, celebrating his wonderful transformation. Jesus believes in Zacchaeus’ goodness – Zacchaeus had few friends, but Jesus singled him out and this had an amazing effect on Zacchaeus – we all want to be “seen” and loved! Do explain conscience to your child – the inner voice of God in our heart, helping us to know right from wrong. The most important point to highlight to your child is the fact that Zacchaeus realizes Jesus’ love for him. A key theme of this programme is that God loves us each individually like a loving parent. If our child can grasp something of God’s immense love for them, then they will be excited for the change that God can do within them through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God will give them the strength – like with Zacchaeus – to make a new start.
  • Page 40 & 41 – Explain to your child what happens when they make their reconciliation. Link it to needing other adults’ help to get things right – that we ask God to help us by talking to him – which is what we do during Reconciliation. The priest listens to what they have to say, standing in the place of Jesus. They need to come to the priest with contrition, having thought about what they want to say and being sorry for it (remember if they have done something without knowing it was wrong, then it is not a sin – sin is choosing to do something we know is wrong). Re-emphasise that the priest cannot tell anyone what they hear – it is a special conversation your child is having with God and nobody else. Go over the meaning of the two keywords here and keep the positive point that talking to the priest and receiving his blessing from God is a vital step, which helps us to put things right. Go through each flower petal and explain that the Act of Sorrow is what they will read to the priest when they make their Reconciliation.
  • Page 42 – This is a good page to explain the elements that make up the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Before the Sacrament we make an EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE, where we reflect or think about where we have gone wrong. During the Sacrament, we CONFESS our sins and we say our Act of Sorrow or CONTRITION. We receive God’s forgiveness through ABSOLUTION (special words of blessing spoken over us by the priest). The priest gives us a PENANCE, so that – after the Sacrament – we can do our PENANCE (either a prayer or an action we need to take) to celebrate receiving God’s forgiveness and show our desire to want to change for the better.
  • Page 43 – The Bible stories listed on this page will help you identify other lovely examples of forgiveness and the joy of something lost being found. You can look these up and read them as bedtime stories. Make use of the “How to find a Bible Passage” sheet from Session 1 to help you discover some of these stories with your child.
  • Page 44 – There are a number of key words to learn in this Chapter – do try and use them, so they become more familiar, but also use a simpler word to explain a new word.
The priest stands in place of Jesus
The priest stands in place of Jesus (Click to enlarge)

Summary

  • Enjoy some family sharing time where you tell stories of love and forgiveness. You can use examples from your daily family life or other well-known or biblical stories of forgiveness.
  • Continue to practise your reflection about the day with your child – thinking about all the good things they have done, as well as the things that went wrong & caused unhappiness and where they need to ask forgiveness for something. (This is a way of gradually preparing your child for the “examination of conscience” – the first step in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – where we spend time reflecting on areas where we need forgiveness).
  • Practise saying the prayer of sorrow from p.40 in the children’s book.
  • Have your child do the online quiz (compulsory).