The twins are in second grade this year, which in the Catholic faith means First Reconciliation and First Eucharist (Communion). It also means the first time we’ve feared a sacrament.
If you’ve met the boys, you are well aware of how…… how should I put this?…. of how ENERGETIC they can be. And they reserve a special kind of energy for strangers, the ones who think they can’t comprehend or understand. If you’ve met the boys and spent any time with them, you are well aware of their limitations, of their unwillingness to listen at times, of their unique level of “let me just see what I can do” view of life. Wrap all of that into a nice little package of total boy and visualize containing it in a small room with a priest for confession…. Or in a mass to receive communion. Yeah, I couldn’t imagine, either.
We’ve worked hard to teach the boys right from wrong, but it is finite. It has to be re-taught for each situation or environment. In order to be taught, it has to be observed and redirected appropriately as it happens, otherwise it’s not cemented in their brains. Take Nick for example: He’s like a shark when people come over circling for their phones. I can leave my phone out all day and he’ll leave it alone, but I spent LONG hours hiding and waiting for him to reach for and/or touch the phone to jump out and make my “angry” face while telling him, “NO TOUCH!” This rule doesn’t apply to anyone else’s phones even, though they are the same color and type. And it certainly doesn’t apply if he doesn’t get caught.
The idea of confession is not a function the boys are capable of. They will occasionally “tattle” on someone, but it’s a learned behavior rather than an end to a particular need. Expecting them to admit something they’ve done wrong or incorrectly is impossible. The concept of sin is foreign to them. Teaching these two how to confess to a sin in a room with a priest was turning into a foreign backpacking trip complete with granola bars and hostel stays for me.
At the boys’ First Reconciliation interviews, where they ask the child to explain sin and what the confession process is all about, my two precious, adorable boys tried to run out of the rooms. They refused to sit in the chairs, talked their nonsense chatter and acted like complete hooligans. I sat in the hallway between the two rooms and tired to hold back the tears. At the other end of the hall were the parents whose children held their workbooks (Matt liked to look at the pictures, Nick could care less) and answered the interview questions. They were also the parents who questioned me with their glances, probably wondering how I could let the boys act the way they were acting.
The interviewers were strangers to the boys, so they pulled out their biggest tricks. They didn’t understand why we were at church on a non-mass, non-CCE class day. Their ADHD meds had long worn off. And I felt helpless.
Enter our angel – the eduction director at our church.
She politely pulled me into Nick’s room and quietly chatted with the interviewer before turning to me.
“The boys are incapable of understanding sin.” I replied that I knew this and braced myself for the bad news, because all I could think was that if you are unable to comprehend sin, then you can’t have First Reconciliation, much less First Eucharist. How was I going to explain to Matt every Sunday that he couldn’t participate in communion with the rest of us? We had developed a silent argument where he started begging to hold his hands out and I singed, “No. Cross your arms.” Every. Single. Sunday. Mass.
“Because they are incapable of understanding sin, there’s no need for confession.” My heart stopped.
“They can’t reason, so they can’t commit mortal sin. They are saints, Carey.” I dropped to my knees and began sobbing – out of exhaustion, relief and just a need for a good cry.
Fast forward to this past weekend and the boys’ First Eucharist after several months of prep classes. We have practiced for several weeks and they had it down. They’ve even practiced with one another using crackers, Cheerios, whatever was round and resembled a communion wafer. Their outfits included ties – a favorite for Matt. They were seated at the front of the church, pews 1 & 2 and the entire family sat with them. Both had impeccable behavior for the hour long ceremony and both were quite pleased with themselves afterwards.
I cried – out of exhaustion, out of relief and because I was just so darn proud! Proud of these two boys, proud of us as a family and proud of our church community for embracing our boys.
I believe that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection He seeks is in the way people react to this child. ~ Where is God’s Perfection