A New Perspective on Our Faith: A Look at First Reconciliation Through My Daughter’s Eyes

A young girl goes to confession
Photo by Yandry Fernández Perdomo on Cathopic

My daughter is in second grade, which means it is the year of her First Communion. When she began her religious education classes at our parish this year, her dad and I were focused on preparing her for this milestone. We had prayers to practice, doctrines to discuss, and — as my daughter kept reminding me — a dress to dream about and purchase.    

While the weekend of her First Communion was beautiful, what I found in the time leading up to it was that it was not that sacrament that my daughter was focused on most. It was the Sacrament of Reconciliation she was particularly curious about.

What would she tell the priest? My daughter wondered. Would she talk to our parish priest specifically, the one she knows, the one who plays the harmonica and likes chocolate? Would he dislike her after she told her sins to him?  

LISTEN: Preparing Your Kids for First Reconciliation and First Communion

At dinner, my daughter would pretend to whisper her sins to her older brother, and he would laugh. If you knew her, you would know that this was a sign of how nervous she was about the experience, joking to cover up her worries, playing pretend to imagine the experience.

As someone who converted to Catholicism at age 28, I felt as if I couldn’t always field my daughter’s questions or worries in the best way. I had never been a child participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and children see the world through different lenses than adults. How was I to guide her and ease her nervousness?

I talked with her about my experience with First Reconciliation, which she joked must have been hours long because I was almost 30 when I went. Just think about all of those sins I had to recount, she jested. While I didn’t recount all of my sins with her as I did during my first Confession, what I did share with her was the feeling of relief I experienced after it.

I told her I was nervous like her when I went the first time, and I still get nervous, every time. Somehow, though, my soul always feels healed afterward. God’s grace, working through the priest, transforms my heart, and I feel lighter. The sacrament is a gift, and the nervousness we feel before we go to Confession is natural because, unlike Christ, we aren’t perfect. We sin, and so we try to reconcile ourselves and our hearts with him. This is how I tried to explain it to her at least, focusing on the feelings after the Confessional experience rather than what seemed to be the worries plaguing her heart before it.

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On the day of her First Confession, my daughter dressed up, not in her communion dress, but in one of her other favorites. To her, that Saturday felt as momentous as the next day, the day of her First Communion, would be. After all, one could not happen without the other. We practiced her confessional prayer before we left. We also discussed how she didn’t need to share anything she divulged about her sins in the confessional with her parents, her brother, or even the family dog unless she wanted to. 

When we arrived at the parish and waited in line with the other children, she hopped from one foot to the next. There was a palpable sense of nervousness in the air. Some of the kids remarked noisily about their feelings, others simply stared, wide-eyed. On the car ride over, my daughter had wondered aloud if her confession would be longer or shorter than others, which might explain why she had inquired so persistently about the length of my first one.

As she ventured into the booth during her turn, I thought about the times as a family we had gone together and she had waited on me. What must it be like, as a child, to know your parents are receiving forgiveness for their sins? 

Throughout this year, my family has made it a point to go to confession together during each liturgical season, and I have been cognizant of my daughter’s eyes on me, searching and following, contemplating her own future steps in the Church as she grows up in it — and she sees her family growing up in it, too. 

I speak with her often about how, as a child, she gets to experience the faith in a different way than I did because she receives many of the sacraments over time in her life (i.e. Baptism, Reconciliation, Communion, Confirmation), whereas I received them fairly close together in an RCIA setting. Through witnessing her journey, my faith deepens because I experience the sacraments anew, this time with a child’s gaze. We learn together, I tell her. She teaches me, as much as I do her. 

WATCH: Confession 101

With this said, God teaches us all through his sacraments, through these channels of God’s grace. I am reminded of Psalm, 32:8, which reads, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Throughout this year, I have felt God’s loving eye on both my daughter and me. Our journey toward her Reconciliation has been one of growth and togetherness.

It is likely not a surprise that when my daughter came out of the confessional, she looked lighter. Her smile of relief mixed with joy is one I’ll never forget. We did her penance together. 

On the way home, I saw she had grabbed my phone and had texted her dad who was working that day. “She was very nervous!” she wrote about herself. Imagine a few thousand cry/laugh emojis attached to this text.

After I took my phone back, I told her that while she may have been nervous, I was also a little nervous (to which she laughed), but that she did great.

“We both did great,” she responded.

In the end, preparing my daughter for the Sacrament of Reconciliation not only laid the groundwork for her to enter more fully into the Church, but also reconciled me closer to her, to God, and the sacraments that drew me to convert to the faith in the first place. 

It deepened our connection to each other, and most importantly, to God’s love and his wondrous works in the world — in my family’s hearts.