I have three awesome children, eight beyond-wonderful grand kiddos, one special godchild and, since September, eight precious seven-year-olds I call my spiritual grandchildren!
It has been my privilege to serve these very sweet second graders every single week in the CCD program (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) of my church. This is the after-school program for Catholic children who attend public school. Whether I’m creating/adapting lesson plans and materials, providing video presentations, preparing object lessons and crafts, or simply singing about the joy of the Lord, I absolutely love working alongside Carol in helping these kiddos fall more and more in love with Jesus!
The Little Lambs
A couple of weeks ago they attended a Saturday morning “retreat” and learned that Jesus is not only their Good Shepherd but that they are His precious lambs, the sheep of His pasture. After a fun puppet show, some singing and group interaction, they each crafted a small standable lamb covered with large and numerous cotton balls! Little did they know that these little lambs would later be used to demonstrate their role and dependence on Jesus – their Good Shepherd.
You may not be aware that I grew up as a Catholic. I attended Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in my hometown as well as the parish school; “St. Petes”. I attended that school through the seventh grade then went on to the public school system. Perhaps by leaving St. Petes I lost some of the desire to continue learning more about Jesus, and before I knew it, within a couple of years, I had drifted away from my earlier devotion to Him.
SS Peter and Paul Church
St. Petes School
From Catholic to Evangelical to Catholic
At the age of sixteen I “fell back in love with Jesus” by “accepting Him as my Lord and Savior” in an Evangelical church in town. I thrived on Christ’s love and presence in my life as an Evangelical Christian for many years! However, after much misunderstanding and confusion, I finally discovered the Truth of the doctrine of Catholicism (through a mini miracle God gave me) and returned to the Catholic faith two years ago next month. My life has not been the same since and I could never go back! Catholicism isn’t what I thought it was all those years. Catholics who actually practice their faith truly are exemplar Christians! 🙂
The inexpressible transformation of my heart toward the Catholic church came through the understanding of the Sacraments, two of which I simply can’t get enough of – Holy Communion and Confession! As in a previous blog, I can’t overemphasize the beauty and depth of the Sacrament of Confession. I actually don’t recall much about my First Confession experience in the second grade. Perhaps it was because I hadn’t fully grasped, at age seven, what it really meant. To know that my sins could be completely washed away by Jesus through confession to a priest is a truly profound mystery! For that reason, it’s my deepest desire to help these sweet second graders understand the depth and beauty of the Sacraments.
No Inhibitions at all!
In class, as we prepared and reviewed the Sacrament of Confession, do you know that each child wanted to share with me what their sins were and what they were going to say to the priest? I couldn’t believe their transparency! They had no inhibitions, no concerns, no fears. Some of their comments were: “I talked back to my mom four times”, “I hit my little brother two times”, I cheated one time in school”, “I was mean to my friend”, “I was disrespectful to my teacher”, and they wrote them down so they wouldn’t forget them. They couldn’t wait to confess these to Jesus and receive His forgiveness! These children are just beginning to learn the beauty of absolution, forgiveness and peace!
The day finally came for their First Confession. They had practiced how to do it and were very excited to talk to Jesus through the priest. There was a total of fifty one children participating, including the second graders from the school.
Each one of them, upon finishing with the priest, were to come to the altar with their little lamb, place it standing up in the pen where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was seated waiting for them.
I had the privilege of receiving them there. I cannot express the deep joy I had, to the point of tears, of watching those beaming, smiling faces as they approached Jesus. They were coming to the altar to give themselves to Him in the form of that little lamb. It was beautiful! They knelt, placed the lamb in the pen, made the “sign of the cross”, genuflected toward Jesus then knelt at the altar rail to whisper their final prayer of penance.
To close that service, the children sang their favorite song loud and clear! A song I simply adore!
That was four days ago. I couldn’t wait to see the children in our CCD class yesterday to hear of their reactions. I greeted them with a question: “What is one word you want to describe how you felt after confession?” I had them write their answers on the blackboard and below is a photo of what they wrote:
One boy drew a cross with Jesus on it and others drew a heart and several drew various stars as well! If you can’t read them, the words they wrote are the following:
“Excited and happy at the same time !!!, Graet (Great) and excited, Nervous, Excited, Happy, Loved, Thankful, Amazing love, reversed, Loved, nice”.
I asked the boy who wrote “reversed” what he meant. “I went in feeling sinful and came out feeling clean and pure.” This kid is in second grade! I’m so proud of him!
These children, my eight spiritual grandchildren, are the future of the Church! And I love them dearly! They want more and more of Jesus. They yearn to know Him better and guess what? Their next big step is the Sacrament of Holy Communion: The Holy Eucharist. They will be receiving the living Presence of Jesus Christ in the form of a consecrated Host at their First Holy Communion in May.
Needless to say the profound truth of Catholicism is simple: We have the privilege of partaking of Jesus Christ, His True Presence, in the Holy Eucharist because He instructed us to do so. And as we do, He ministers to us because He is actually residing within us. What a miracle! What a joy! (Check out some of my earlier blogs, It’s a Mystery and From Tears of Fear to Tears of Joy).
What a privilege it is for me to guide these precious spiritual grandchildren to the beauty, goodness and truth of Jesus Christ and His love for them as Catholic children! I’m thrilled to be back home in the Catholic Church! After all, it’s the church that Jesus Himself established back some 2,000 years ago and for that I am forever grateful!