The topic of 1st Penance came up as our 2nd graders made theirs tonight. For me, my 1st Penance was the most memorable of the Sacraments of my childhood.
I was in 2nd grade, and I was in Fr. John Kalloor's line (he's now a Bishop in India serving the Malankarites - he's so wonderful!). I remember being a little nervous because my family was so well known in the parish. I trusted that Father Kalloor wouldn't tell my mom any of the bad stuff I would confess (because of the seal), but I was still worried he'd think I was a bad person or something.
Anyway, I saw that it was my turn to make my confession. I was happy that Fr. John was sitting in front of Our Lady's statue in the sanctuary. It was a face-to-face confession (which I had dreaded), but I was glad that the Blessed Mother was watching over everything. I don't remember what my confession actually consisted of, but I remember that he gave me a penance of 3 Hail Marys. I recited the Act of Contrition and off I went.
Instead of immediately going to the Altar Rail for my 3 Hail Mary's (like we were taught), I was SO excited that I started shouting into the crowds of parents, students and teachers "Mom! Mom! Where are you Mom? I DID IT!"
Sr. Damien (our 1st grade teacher at the time), was suddenly in front of me, hushing me and asking, "Did you say your penance yet?"
I realized with a pang of panic that Oh no! I didn't!
She then sent me off to the rail where I completed my prayers quickly. I doubt I said them with any real piety, because I was so excited with what had just happened. I felt absolutely alive! I did, however, remember to thank the Blessed Mother and tell Jesus that I loved Him. Ha.
Anyway, my mom found me and we left the Church to get a treat as celebration. I was even allowed to sit in the FRONT SEAT! She decided to take me to Dunkin' Donuts. On the way there, I was going on and on about how happy I was. I finally said, "Mommy, I feel all floaty inside!"
I will never forget her response to that. As she drove on to Dunkin' Donuts, she said, "That's Jesus' love in there [meaning my heart], making you happy. He loves you so much and is so proud of you!"
I was silent then. It made perfect sense to my 2nd grade mind, yet I was still in awe that Jesus loved me so much that He could make me feel so incredibly happy.
Finally, we got to Dunkin' Donuts and my mom ordered a box of munchkins and even let me have a cup of Mountain Dew - my favorite soda at the time (which she didn't tend to let me have because of the insane amount of caffeine and sugar).
As we started to go home, I still was beyond myself with that feeling of the purest exaltation I'd ever experienced. While enjoying the high, I absent-mindedly took a sip of my Mountain Dew and realized it wasn't good. I didn't like it. I munched on a doughnut and realized that, too, had lost its appeal. Two of my favorite things in the world, munchkins and Mountain Dew, had become less than lack-luster. It was almost as if their "treat" was a mockery of the delicious, fulfilling and beyond-any-fathomable-sense feelings I was experiencing.
To this day, I don't like doughnuts or Mountain Dew. They simply couldn't compare with the intense emotional satisfaction and fulfillment I received through my 1st Confession. That Sacrament - it will always have a special place in my heart. For as powerful as the Eucharist and Confirmation are, Reconciliation, too, is immense. I'm sorry that it is so often overlooked as unnecessary or pointless.
Mmmmmm - I'm going to spend the rest of this evening on cloud nine, though. Anytime I think of my 1st Reconciliation, I retaste those feelings and feel sustained in joy for hours on end. :) Truly that was one of the happiest days of my life.
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