As I tried to be creative while working from home my daughter comes running inside and tells me that she has no homework today, but that she has to learn prayers (she knew already) for her First Confession.
It is March and my three children (nine, seven and four ) are finally back in school.
When we enrolled our daughter for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion I was excited. We ticked the boxes making sure that we will participate in the parish preparation and that it is our responsibility as a parent to hand on the faith. Even the three legged stool was mentioned. We ticked those boxes happily, full of energy and excitement. Finally, my daughter was to experience God’s mercy and love for us (through the Sacrament of Reconciliation) and she can finally join in the mystery of “Do this in memory of me”.
I am under no illusion that most of this might go over her head but for me as a mother that was my motivation. For me, those are moments of celebration as she is going to become an even closer friend to Jesus and the community of followers.
After registering, I heard nothing for months. Of course I thought we are living during a pandemic and the churches are closed. But then one day I spotted an announcement on the parish Facebook page. The parish team was still hoping to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation and First Holy Communion before the summer and that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was to be organised in the school. I nearly fell off my chair reading this. I contacted the parish team and was offered kind words like “it will be dignified in the school”.
It might sound selfish, but what about me? What about the promise I made on the day of her Baptism? I have been doing my best to pass on my love for God, and now I cannot be there on the day when she is to receive the Sacrament?
So, we had to figure it out as a family. Either go along with it like all the other families do, or stand up for what we believe is right?
After many tears and endless discussion, we went with our gut (God) feeling. On the day when all the children in second class were to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the school I stood at the school gate to collect my daughter. Heavy-hearted I welcomed her, hugged her and held her tight. She was not impressed with the decision but little did she know the pain this had caused us: the sleepless nights and wondering is it the right thing to do. Personally, I was exhausted doing what I believed was right.
How often have I heard Church leaders challenging parents to be involved? How often have we listened to those that shout the loudest because they do not want to engage and want an easy way out?
The pandemic has shown churches how vulnerable parishes have become. How fragile many of the priests are. If a pandemic is not a time to evangelise rather than playing the numbers game what will? As someone who wants to belong and engage, I am tired. The empty talk about collaboration, that we are all baptised with the same spirit, that we share the baptismal call, the empty talks about the importance of young families, listening to those involved. I realised I am just holding on by my fingertips – like many others just about to let go, not because I am upset, not because of this experience but because I love my Faith.
A little while after, my daughter came home with a sad face. I asked what was wrong. She told me that all the children in her class got an ice cream after their first penance. Her younger sister overheard the conversation and went to the freezer and took out an ice pop for her. All I could do was hug her and tell her we would celebrate together as a family when it was safe to do so.
And while saying this I knew this was not really about the ice cream.