Chapter Three: Celebrating Our Rescue (Reconciliation)

In this chapter we are helping the children to understand that we celebrate saying sorry. Saying sorry is about sorting things out, keeping friends and being reminded that God forgives us and this is a cause of great celebration! We experience JOY when we are forgiven. Even though we are all created good, we all make mistakes: but God is there to help us.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation – mirrored in the Penitential Act at Mass, where we reflect on our sins of the past week – is where God “rescues us” from losing our way, after we confess our sins to God and tell him that we want to become friends again.

Remember, forgiveness is something that should be an everyday activity – not something we reserve for the really “bad” stuff, but something we should experience ourselves and offer to others on a daily basis. If we can help our children to see this, reconciliation – the act of becoming friends again, instead of holding onto hurts – becomes part of our natural/regular habits.

Video by Portlaoise Parish, Ireland

Some questions to ask

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

Q. Have you ever rescued anything that you love very much?
A. Answers will vary – it could be a teddy, a pet, a lost sibling, etc., but you will want to emphasise the feeling of relief or joy at finding the thing again. If your child mentions an example of not having found something and how devastating that can feel, you can still bring a positive message here: it shows us that – when it comes to feeling down and sad over something we have done wrong – we don’t want to stay in that place, as it is not a nice feeling or experience. We all want the joy of being rescued …

Q. Have you ever been in trouble or danger before? Or have you ever witnessed someone in danger being rescued e.g., a road accident, an animal being stuck or injured or some other trouble?
A. Allow you child to share freely. Maybe it is a family memory or story that you can reminisce on together. Maybe you need to tell the story of a time when you “rescued” them when they were very little and how you felt – the worry you felt and the great joy that replaced it, knowing they were okay/safe in the end. They will be interested to hear your parent’s perspective (which can illustrate how God feels when we get back on the right path), because – as parents – we do try and mirror God’s love in the way we love and care for them …

Q. How do you feel when you become friends again with someone that you might have argued with or who has upset you?
A. Your child may come up with all sorts of answers, but you want to emphasise the feeling of happiness at things being put right. We always feel better when we rebuild a friendship!

Q. How can God help us to become friends again with someone who has hurt us?
A. This will be a challenging question for your children to answer, but children do often come up with insightful responses. With this question, we are trying to show how we need God in our lives. Simple answers to this question could be “God can give me strength”, “I can learn to love those who hurt me, like God loves me” or “God shows me how to live in peace”. Some children may make the link with the story of the Good Shepherd and be able to say that “God will help and look after me, just like the shepherd cared for the lost sheep”

Suggested Activities

  • Page 22 – Encourage your child to think about what friendship means and why becoming friends again with someone we upset, or who has upset us, is so wonderful! Use any story that you may have at home about friends falling out and becoming friends again to make this point. Again, re-emphasize: It is important that our children know that they are still loved and lovable, even when they have been naughty. Spend time learning how to say the keyword on this page and understand what it means.
  • Page 23 & 24 – Real-life rescues can be very dramatic! Enjoy sharing stories and allowing your child to engage with this theme (which we use in this chapter to explain God’s desire to “rescue” us when we lose our way in life and his great joy when we are close to him again). If you don’t have a story of your own, there are usually plenty of news stories that you could use to illustrate the theme – e.g. the pilot who landed a passenger plane in the Hudson River in order to rescue all his passengers from crashing or the cat reunited with its owner, after being missing for 11 years (download Rescue Stories PDF). Allow your child to draw a picture inspired by your discussion.
  • Page 25 – Old Testament Reading: Daniel in the Lion’s Den – read the story to your child. Emphasise how amazing this rescue from God is! But as amazing and dramatic is the depth of TRUST that Daniel had in God – God is the one who does the rescuing: He is a faithful God who rescues and saves!
  • Page 26 & 27 – New Testament Reading: The Lost Sheep – Explain, as you read the story, how dangerous the shepherd’s job was – living in the wild and having to face fierce beasts who attack their sheep. God is like the good shepherd who cares for each one of his sheep. This is illustrated in the fact that the shepherd goes off looking for the one lost sheep. As your child colours their picture, explain that even when we are helpless, God can save us! Again, emphasize the celebration here at finding the lost sheep.
  • Page 28 & 29 – Sorting things out with God’s help! p28 will help your child to think about the feelings that can lead to wrongful actions and that sometime these feelings can be destructive (NB Feelings in themselves are neither good nor bad. They can signal to us know what is going on. It is what we DO with our feelings that can be good or bad). Make the link that – like in the Parable of the Lost Sheep – we need God to help us. He loves us like a parent, even when we do something wrong. This helps to move into looking at the Sacrament itself. Explain, using p29, that it is a time to sit with the priest (who stands in the place of Jesus), talk to him about where we need to be reconciled, and – in doing so – to be able to CELEBRATE being rescued by God. Be sure to affirm the POSITIVE nature of the Sacrament (which might include setting aside any negative experiences you parents may have had!) and also explain that anything done by accident is never sinful – but what we do deliberately is – because we cause damage to our relationship with God, others and with ourselves – and we need to bring those things to God.
  • Page 30 & 31 – Here, we begin helping our child identify the things that they might choose to bring to God. This process of reflection is called the Examination of Conscience – but we will be looking at this process in more detail in Chapter 4. So, just a gentle encouragement here, to help your child begin to identify what they want to bring to God, will suffice. The simple word search on p31 will help your child to recap their understanding of keywords connected to reconciliation. Remind them what each word means and how positive they are – including the word sorry: a powerful word, which can lead to all the other words on the page!
  • Page 32 – This is a time to give thanks together and to think about the kind things we can do to show our love for others. Also talk to them about what the Stations of the Cross are and where they are in the Church

Summary

  • Talk about the times we need to forgive each other in our family situations – and how difficult it can be!
  • Each night, talk about the day just gone, thinking about all the good things they have done, as well as the things that went wrong and caused unhappiness. Encourage your child to ask for forgiveness wherever this is needed.
  • Practise saying the keyword “Reconciliation” with your children and help them understand what that big word means. It is an idea – meaning “to bring together” or “to become friends again” – and it is a Sacrament – a celebration which brings God’s loving forgiveness.
  • Find the Confessional inside the church or look up pictures online. Their First Reconciliation will not take place in the Confessional though, but in the church, sitting with the priest where you can’t be heard by others (In fact, in general, the Sacrament can be celebrated anywhere where a priest is available).
  • Have your child do the online quiz (compulsory).

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).