The April 2009 edition of Intercom is now available. Read a feature article on celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation with younger people and view the Contents page.


April 2009 issue

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Bless me Father

Chris O’Donnell

Below are three ideas for celebrating the sacrament in a meaningful way with younger people.

1. Abrakedabra!

Obviously I would never use the above description with young people, but there is a moment in the celebration when you do feel like going Abrakedabra’! Firstly you will require a clear glass bowl full of water. Secondly a very small clear jug with a little iodine (available from most pharmacies). And finally a large glass jug full of Milton (available in baby section’ of supermarkets).

Reflect on the water in the bowl – draw comparison with their baptismal water. Highlight how clear it is and how you can see through it, and how, because it is so clear and still, you can see your reflection in it. Discuss how we are created in the image of God and so our reflection somehow reflects the image of God. You can ask questions here about what the image of God would be like – kind, loving etc. Ask if we always reflect this image of God – are we always kind etc? Explain that each time we do something sinful we take away from who we are and so we don’t reflect the image of God. Ask children for suggestions of these things. For each suggestion add a tiny drop of iodine and chat about how the water is becoming discoloured. After a few more examples and a few more drops of iodine you can talk about how it is impossible even to see your reflection any more and it looks awful.

Now talk about the sacrament and how God is a God of second chances. Through God’s forgiveness, love and mercy we are given a new start, but we have to be sorry and be eager to start anew. Then pour the big jug of Milton into the discoloured water and watch what happens (try not to shout abrakedabra!) The water becomes clear, back to the baptismal water as such. You can see your reflection and it reminds the children that through the sacrament they become a new creation or a re-newed’ creation. To go further, talk about how the grace of the sacrament can help us in our battle with sin – talk about the experience of being tempted to sin, add a tiny drop of iodine and note how the water now resists the iodine.

2. Molly, Dolly, Polly ….

Ask the children to bring in toy sheep or teddy sheep. Create a pen’ in front of the altar for the sheep with a single entrance. Make a shepherd’s staff (handle of brush and tinfoil does the trick!). Make laminated pictures of fairly identical sheep. Bring a pre-prepared slate and a damp cloth. Usually the Gospel has been about the lost sheep and so follow with a discussion on sheep and shepherds. You can say that in the Holy Land shepherds walked ahead of their sheep – so the sheep were not forced to follow as such. Chat about why a shepherd might have a staff (to protect the sheep and pull them out of danger). Make comparison with bishop’s crosier.

Ask what the sheepfold is all about – a place where the shepherd would place the sheep for the night. Highlight that there is only one way in and one way out – and at night the shepherd would sleep across the entrance so nothing could harm his sheep and none could stray. Talk about how hard it must be to count sheep and how hard it would be to notice one missing. Tell children you are going to see if they would be a good shepherd. Mention how sheep look alike and you have pictures with names on the back and you want to see how good they are at recognising them. Show each sheep and give its name, then shuffle the sheep and ask children to guess their names a few times and joke about how difficult it is and turn the picture around each time to see if they guessed the right name. Then say how a shepherd knew his sheep so well he knew what they got up to.

Say that you have a slate with a list of things the shepherd wrote – pull out the slate called, Polly’s list’ – on this slate have a list of things Polly did wrong written in chalk i.e. bit Milly, didn’t share her nuts, called Dolly names, got lost etc. Reflect on these things, but then say even though she did all these things wrong the shepherd would still search her out because he loved her and once Polly was sorry the shepherd would forget all the things she did wrong. Make a comparison with confession. Like Polly we make mistakes, but once we are sorry God wipes our slate clean (wipe Polly’s slate) and welcomes you back into his arms and says (turn over the slate) It’s ok, I love you’ (written in very big writing on the other side of the slate). So reflect on the wiping the slate clean and how the words of absolution are God’s way of saying It’s ok, I love you’.

3. Oops!

This is based on a book called Oops! by Pennie Kidd & Rosalind Beardshaw (ISBN 0745948928). Drop something and go oops!’. Chat about the times we say oops!’ and lead children to an awareness that we can say it when we have done something wrong. Share the story with them, reading the bits that best suit you and chatting about it as you go along. Ultimately the essence of this very simple story is that you don’t need to be perfect to be loved.

These ideas have worked for me but like anything you have to make your own of them and rehearse them if possible. They have led to meaningful celebrations of the sacrament for me and I hope it will be the same for you.


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