The True Test

Overheard: Would you like this even if I weren’t your brother?


919 919_ () 919 919 This week’s column

Our son Elliott had his First Penance last week, a beautiful occasion that was emotional for me and far less traumatic for Elliott than he thought it would be.

I will admit I was relieved when things went so smoothly on the day of the confession. Weeks earlier, as we started our initial examination of conscience, Elliott told me he had nothing to confess.

“I’m pretty mild mannered,” he explained. Since he couldn’t come up with anything on his own, I offered him a few ideas. We also asked the Holy Spirit to remind him of anything he might be forgetting.

Elliott’s godfather (a priest) suggested we approach the examination using Sins of Omission. If, on the off-chance there really were no bad deeds to report, what about the things Elliott had failed to do. That approach was quite effective; recognizing times we could have done more, or made better choices, was a good impetus for admitting other sins as well.

As the day neared, Elliott made great headway (with continued help from Mom and Dad) in determining what to confess. On the morning of First Penance, he was comfortable with what he would say and with reciting his Act of Contrition. And things went fine – after his time with Fr. Donahue, he exited the confessional with a wide grin and a look of relief and joy.

“He said I made a very good confession,” Elliott told me several times (quite pleased).

Of the two confession stations that morning, Elliott was in line to enter the actual confessional, a tiny room at the back of the church with a few small panes of glass on one side.

Paul and I had brought all the boys with us, and we sat in a pew just within sight of these windows. When it was Elliott’s turn, Charlie asked if he could “go up close to watch” – a request that was denied.

Charlie also spent a few minutes telling me that God might be calling him to be a priest, he wasn’t sure just yet, but would I get anything special for being a priest’s mom. We had a sweet conversation about the graces and blessings of being a Priest of God, and about me going straight to heaven (as a priests’ mom). Then he changed the subject.

“Who would clean up the mess,” he asked, “if someone threw up in the confessional?”

I opted not to say The Priest; I didn’t want to discourage his choice of vocation.

Paul and I had taken separate cars downtown, and on the way home Elliott rode with me and talked about his experience.

“This is what I think of confession as,” he told me. “The priest is my friend, and I go in there and gossip about myself.”

When I got home and relayed this story to Paul, I started imagining gossiping about myself to the priest – what a dishy little confession I would have. If I approached it like that, I would be sure to cover every last bit of information, instead of the less-painful approach of glossing things over. I might be less vague with some of the details too.

And then I realized that this would very likely be the most honest and frank look I’d ever given myself – something worth considering.

Elliott’s First Penance was such a positive experience for him. He asked me several times that day when he was allowed to go to Confession again; he said he felt a difference in his soul.

In this season of Lent, as we examine our lives and the ways we have fallen away from God, may we have this same childlike excitement and appreciation for the incredible gift of reconciliation that God so generously gives us. 919″> ?


They’re On To Me

918 918_ () 918 918 Elliott: Mom, this Easter do we all have to dress the same?

Me: What do you think?

Elliott: Yes.

Where do they get these ideas? 918″>


St. Charles the Italian

“Mom,” Charlie asks me, “is there a patron saint of cigars?”