“I know your sins - I’ve read your facebook!”

This week we celebrated the sacrament of First Confession or the sacrament of reconciliation with the children in the parish. When you’re working with seven and eight year olds there’s never a dull moment.

Children at this age possess a great innocence and openness. A teacher once sent a note home to the parents of an infant class. The note read: ‘If you promise not to believe everything the child says happens in class I promise not to believe everything the child says happens at home.’ My nephew’s at the age when he’s starting to repeat words and phrases so you have to be careful what you say. I was explaining this recently when a friend described what happened in her local area. Neighbours recently painted the outside of their house and when all the children were playing in the shadows of the new paintwork one was heard saying :‘My mammy says that colour is wile looking.’ Needless to say the house was repainted the next week!

Speaking of confessions I was sent a photo of a confession box withthe following caption. The person confessing begins ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned.’ To which the priest replies ‘I know,. Telling this story in a local shop,one of the assistants said a friend’s child was on her computer. and when the mother asked what she was doing the child answered: ‘I’m looking up Google to find sins for my first confession’.

You might wonder why we’re worrying with preparing children for Confession at such a young age. One reason concerns making children aware they are part of larger family, a greater community. I look at my nephew who turned three this week and marvel at how the world revolves around him. It’s natural to love and cherish our children, celebrating the uniqueness of each young life.

As children we have to be helped to come to the painful awareness of how the world doesn’t revolve all around us, there are others. Slowly through our families, neighbours and eventually in school we discover a whole network of relationships which are vital to living a healthy and fulfilled life. After becoming used to being the centre of attention it can be a culture shock for a child to have to consider others. Throughout our lives we struggle with the temptation to pursue our own needs and wants, regardless of others.

From an early age we need to be given an example of how to live selflessly, responding to the needs of those with whom we share our lives. It’s not easy, we all sin and fail. Yet in the sacrament of reconciliation we acknowledge our limitations and admit our need of God’s help. We are not machines, none of us are perfect, but’s that’s okay. Thankfully in his great love and mercy God gives us the opportunity to begin again, to start afresh and strengthens our bonds within the One True Vine.