God’s Mercy Revealed
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.
This week with Session 20 we are discussing two more sacraments: Anointing of the Sick and Penance, these are known as the sacraments of healing. Anointing of the Sick is administered by a priest to bring spiritual and even physical strength during an illness, especially near the time of death. Often given for life-threatening or pathological illness, before a life threatening operation, or if in danger of death because of illness or old age, this can only be given to baptized Catholic in a state of sanctifying grace. Like penance and communion Catholics may receive this sacrament more than once. For this lesson we recommend having the children watch a short video from 3 Minute Catechism explaining this sacrament: Episode 45 – What is Anointing of the Sick? This video summarizes the important points of the sacrament.
The best way to begin the lesson about Penance is to start with why. That is a child’s favorite question: Why? Why do we have to do confession? Simply put: sin. Specifically the Original Sin carried on from Adam and Eve has subjected humans to the ever present Concupiscence. Concupiscence is not sin. It is a tendency towards it. We have this tendency to sin due to our Free Will. Often defined as the choice to do good or bad. I’m not sure I quite like this way people define free will for kids it because it can be a heavy label for children. They in their daily life (school, home, etc.) told they are being “good” or “bad” depending on the situation and this is not the same as making a choice to sin. So, with that thought, let’s really get to the root of this to help the little ones better understand their free will’s role in our human daily life.
Children have many questions about sin and this is an important topic for them to understand. There are 2 types of actual sin and we need to understand what they are before we can learn how to begin making a good confession. Right now is a good time to see how The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism defines mortal and venial sins. You will find the definitions on pages 40-41. (For the younger children using the red book, number 1 it will be pages 32-33.)
One of the ways I have connected the understanding of sin and decision is through the use of a story. Children love to hear stories and may have even heard this one before and not realized the message they are going to see after hearing it explained this way. I use the story of Pinocchio as an example of how to explain choices and conscience. I use the Disney version for two reasons: it’s a better child appropriate version compared to the original Italian story and most children have seen or are aware of this version. If your children have not seen or been read the Disney version you can find some books or streaming online. Start with reading the book. In class I begin by summarizing the story then we start to discuss the story as it relates to how sin and choice are a part of Pinocchio’s story.
Because Pinocchio has a hard time remembering what to do every day he needs a helper. Children love this connection because they too have a hard time remembering things to do! To help Pinocchio learn how to be a boy he is given a conscience, Jiminy Cricket, to offer advice. As the story goes on Pinocchio has many mishaps that put him in tough situations. He meets some characters who have motives that are not for doing good and Pinocchio learns some hard lessons. Pinocchio has difficulty understanding how to navigate the big wide world, especially when there are people trying to influence him in a different direction. It may be a bit silly to use a cartoon cricket but the concept of conscience can be tricky to explain to children. Using this story example helped them see that having a conscience (and Guardian Angel) is important to us as we learn how to use our free will to make better choices every day.
To help your child learn the 5 Steps to Confession use this Steps of Confession Song. In class as a way to review for the Confession quiz I would have the children play a game. It’s a hopping the Steps to Confession game. Print out the steps, cut them out, and tape to the floor. Have your child hop on to each step as they tell you what that step is and what is done. By having the children tell you what is happening they will begin to remember each step, it’s also a great way to discuss confession.
Watch: The list is long this session but these are worth your child’s time to view. These are good for all ages to see, specific options for the older children will be listed as homework.
- Watch the Parable of the Lost Sheep with your child and teach them that when we choose to sin, we are like the little sheep that left the protection of the Good Shepherd. Remind your child that Jesus is like that shepherd in the video, because He is very happy when we return to the flock through the Sacrament of Confession.
- Watch The Man Lowered Through the Roof with your child about the healing of the paralytic and point out that Jesus had the power to forgive sins. Jesus shared that power with His Apostles after He rose from the dead.
- Watch the Prodigal Son and share with your child how this story is an example of how God treats us when we make poor choices and we ask forgiveness.
- Watch Zacchaeus with your child and point out what Zacchaeus did to make a good confession:
- He knew that he stole money (know your sins)
- He felt bad for having treated the people badly (contrition)
- We wanted to change his ways (amend your ways)
- He confessed his sins to Jesus (tell a priest)
- He returned the money and gave money to the poor (do penance for sins)
Vocabulary words to discuss with your child: Original Sin: The first sin committed by Adam and Eve. Actual Sin: Sin we commit. Mortal Sin: A deadly sin. This sin is committed with intent and kills our soul by chipping away God’s grace. Venial Sin: This is a lesser sin that can be committed on purpose or without thinking and dulls away God’s grace.
Saints of the Week: March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick. A fan favorite with the kids I have a bunch of ideas for you to explore. There are St. Patrick and St. Brigid paper stand-up saints. I really like this project of a Trinity craft and St. Patrick’s breastplate armor. The shamrock is St. Patrick’s symbol and there are many ways to make them. A shamrock rosary, painting with bell peppers, Paper strip four-leaf shamrock, paper mosaic, printing and coloring a few options. If you are looking for a more long lasting option that can be used every year using craft felt is a nice choice. A quick handmade felt clover can be an easy project that requires very little sewing. I imagine seeing several of them strung together to make a bunting. There is a tutorial for making a lucky four-leaf felt clover that is part of a hair clip but the clover could be used for anything. Making a two toned felt shamrock brooch is another option. For an easy treat make some shamrock pretzel pops.
On March 19 we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph of Nazareth. Read about St. Joseph’s Table, an Italian tradition. Through his intercession the people were saved from starvation due to a prolonged drought so they honor him with a bountiful feast. Loyola Press has a great activity packet. For more activity ideas look to our post about March being dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Prayer of the Week: Act of Contrition
Homework First Year Sacramental Prep: Read lessons 9 and 10 from The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism pages 40-46. By now your child should know the Glory Be, the Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God prayer and the Hail Mary. Continue to work on the Our Father. Practice the Grace Before Meals prayer. Read John 20:19-23 to your child. Color the Confession Coloring Sheet to help to teach this concept.
Homework Second Year Sacramental Prep: Read lessons 29-31 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism (red book #1) pages 139-152. Complete Spirit of Truth pages 114-115. These pages will be handed in at the end of the month. By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and an Act of Contrition. Keep practicing these every night. Read John 20:19-23 to your child. Color the Confession Coloring Sheet to help to teach this concept. Review The Five Steps to A Good Confession with your child.
Homework Years 3-6th Grades: Read lessons 29-31 from The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism (gray book #2) pages 184-187, 189-194, 196-200. By now your child should know The Sign of the Cross, the Angel of God, the Glory Be, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and an Act of Contrition. Start memorizing the Apostles’ Creed. Watch this Sophia Sketchpad overview of confession with your child and watch What Is Sin? with your child and remind them that sin is not just about breaking rules, but it is about hurting a relationship. Give examples of accidents vs. sins and review that difference with your child. Complete the Sacrament of Penance Review. Here is the answer key. Do the Sin and Forgiveness Worksheet. Review The Five Steps to A Good Confession with your child.
Activity Ideas: While we are not going to see many crafting activities for the theme of this session we can focus on some things to do that are actions. One that we suggest is to focus on preparing the children for penance by learning how to make a confession. For the Prodigal Son Parable this Lost Son craft is a good one to work on.
Additional resources: A Little Book About Confession for Children by Kendra Tierney is a sweet little book that is a great way to start preparing your child for the sacrament of Penance. The book has a questions and answers format that explains the hows and whys of the sacrament. The book The Monks Make Amends is a sweet rhyming story about the importance of confession. Another good book is Jesus Speaks to Me about Confession that is beautifully illustrated. Our Lent Resources Page has many more ideas.
Confession: For our First Year Sacramental prep friends talking to them about Confession is a great way to involve them in this sacrament. While they are not able to go Confession now is a great time to tell them all about this sacrament and teach them how to prepare to make their first penance. Those of you who have a child slated for receiving Holy Communion this spring you will need to have them prepare for their First Penance. Each Family Activity Pack has the script included in the handouts. (they are below too) I encourage you to have your kids practice role playing with each other. If you have older kids they can be a great help in this role playing activity. If your oldest is in the FHC prep year then now is a good time to do this with them. Play and practice work wonders with kids and truly does prepare them for this sacrament.
You are in the BEST position to help your child examine their conscience. Here are some tips: 10 Ways to Prepare Your Children for Confession and Good Examination of Conscience. Here is an Examination of Conscience for your middle school child. The documents below are for helping out with confession. The “what you say in confession” is the script Holy Trinity has used since 2007 with the second grade sacrament children. That script is good for all kids to use while in confession. The additional one, “child confessional guide”, is the same script but I edited to make room for the child to write in any notes to help them while in confession. I have used this version to pass out to the students as they prepare for their First Penance ceremony. Perhaps it will be helpful for your children.