An Examination of Conscience for Children
Responsibilities to God
Have I prayed every day?
Have I prayed with my parents and family?
Have I been moody and rebellious about praying and going to church on Sunday?
Have I asked the Holy Spirit to help me whenever I have been tempted to sin?
Have I asked the Holy Spirit to help me do what is right?
Responsibilities to Others
Have I been obedient and respectful to my parents?
Have I lied or been deceitful to my parents or others?
Have I been arrogant, stubborn, or rebellious?
Have I talked back to parents, teachers, or other adults?
Have I pouted and been moody?
Have I been selfish toward my parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, or my friends and schoolmates?
Have I gotten angry at them? Have I hit anyone?
Have I held grudges or not forgiven others?
Have I treated other children with respect... or have I made fun of them and called them names?
Have I used bad language?
Have I stolen anything? Have I returned it?
Have I performed my responsibilities, such as homework and household chores?
Have I been helpful and affectionate toward my family?
Have I been kind and generous with my friends?
"I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10
Reconciliation, one of the sacraments of healing, is a great gift of love which God has given to his people through his son, Jesus Christ! In the celebration of this sacrament, we are healed in spirit, mind, and body as we answer Jesus' call to penance and to convert our hearts. Christian conversion calls us to live as Christ at all times, whether at home, at school, or in the workplace, and we live out our conversion in our daily lives through acts of kindness and love. When we sin, we are separated from God and from our community. The sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to become whole again in the Body of Christ.
Let the Children Come!
Jesus loved children. As a child himself, he was raised by Joseph and Mary in their home at Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). Growing up among townspeople and relatives, Jesus experienced the concerns and problems common to all children. Within this setting, Jesus "grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40).
Jesus' affection for children is clearly affirmed in the Gospels. When his disciples attempted to halt people from bringing children to Jesus for his blessing, he insisted: "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs" (Matthew 19:14).
Jesus also demonstrated his compassion for children by healing them and raising them from death. He restored life to Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:21-43) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He healed an epileptic boy and the demon-possessed daughter of a Greek woman (Luke 9:37-43).
His fundamental concern was always for the spiritual development of children. The greatest gift which God the Father can give to anyone, including children, is faith in his only begotten Son. Jesus declared that the Father reveals his Son to children more readily than to the learned and clever (Luke 10:21)!
Recalling these examples of Jesus' attention to children sets the proper context for helping children to examine their consciences and preparing them for the sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament allows Jesus to express his love for children today. Through it, he continues to influence their lives; he demonstrates his power to heal them, to free them from the bondage of sin, and raise them to new life. In turn, this sacrament allows children to come to know and love Jesus. For these reasons, Jesus still exhorts us: "Let the children come!"
Parish children are prepared for their First Reconciliation and Eucharist during 1st and 2nd grade religion classes in the school and the religious education program. Children are required to attend both years in order to be fully ready to receive the Sacraments. This is a special time for children and their families, bringing much excitement as they learn their prayers and become spiritually aware. A separate program is available for children in grade 3 or higher who have not yet celebrated these sacraments (see RCIC).
According to Sharing the Light of Faith, a catechesis on the sacrament of Reconciliation should come before the preparation for First Communion, and it "must be kept distinct by a clear and unhurried separation" (NCD, #126). Our children are prepared from October through November for Reconciliation. During this time, parents and guardians must attend two parent-and-child meetings to discuss the Sacrament and to guide them as they assist their children with this exciting time in their faith. Families receive a special six-lesson book that will be completed at home before the celebration of Reconciliation. First Penance is usually celebrated in the beginning of December.
"Parents are the first and foremost teachers of their children. They teach informally but powerfully by example and instruction. They communicate values and attitudes by showing love for Christ and His church and for each other, by reverently receiving the Eucharist and living in its spirit, and by fostering justice and love in all their relationships. It is the parents' nurturing of faith in their children that shows them the richness and beauty of lived faith." (Sharing the Light of Faith #212)
Our parish sacramental materials are family-based, and this allows parents and guardians to teach and share their own experiences of the sacraments with their children. The children begin to recognize the reality of sin, the expression of sorrow, and the gift of forgiveness in the daily relationships within the family system. It's important to help children view God as someone who knows and loves them unconditionally. God is not to be feared, but to be loved back. By helping your children show forgiveness to another, identifying acts as unacceptable, and especially by showing yourself to be a forgiving and reconciling person, you are building the foundation on which future Christian growth will take place. Guiding your children in faith, watching them grow and develop, and helping along the way are part of the great joys of Christian parenting!
God calls all of the baptized to continually convert their hearts and form their consciences. The sacrament of Reconciliation is not meant to be celebrated once, but over and over again for a lifetime! Children in grades 3 through 8 have opportunities at least once a year to celebrate this sacrament during Reconciliation Services in the school and the religious education program. By emphasizing their connectedness to God and others, we can help them see the importance of offering one another mutual love and respect. Parents, too, often find that they are learning (or remembering) as much about this marvelous sacrament as their children are, and this helps them rediscover a love for its healing grace as they return to a habit of frequent confession.
• Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States