CGS Connection – Sacrament Preparation – Part 5

CGS Connection – Sacrament Preparation – Part 5

After months of preparation, CGS children are ideally brought together for a retreat prior to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. In the “Rome Model” which has been mentioned in previous articles, the children are blessed to gather for 3 days! In practical logistics for our local program, we feel very grateful to have a full Saturday retreat day together. That special day took place recently at our local Adoration chapel. As our program is more regional than parish based, we had 11 children from 5 different communities come together for shared, yet personal, prayer, adoration, scriptural reflection, simple contemplative hand-work, and a beautiful tea luncheon. The children ate and had tea with three priests from the area.

Half of the children had already received Reconciliation earlier in the year, the other half continued to look forward to the Sacrament at the end of the Retreat day. All together they pondered an activity, prepared by the Catechist in advance, where each child’s baptismal date was announced to remind him or her when he or she was grafted on to the True Vine. The children began to spontaneously cheer at each announcement. A series of graphics, depicting the gestures and sacramental signs, were added to the poster. The final graphic, the one indicating that their fruitfulness on the vine would soon be strengthened by the Good Shepherd’s very own Body and Blood, was placed with great joy!

Towards the end of the Retreat, we took the children to the Church for reconciliation. Several of the children wanted to go even though they’d recently received the sacrament at their home parish. A “veteran” helped calm a nervous “1st-timer,” as did a look in the confessional, and the presence of parents who had all joined us at that point. In CGS parlance, we speak of the sacrament of Reconciliation as the gift of God to keep the sap flowing through the branches, to break the chains of sin, and to renew the white garment of baptism. Whichever of these images they were thinking about, the state of grace was evident on the beaming faces of the Penitents. In the Rome model, children are given a white alb, as an outward sign of the purity of soul, that they would return in the next day to receive our Eucharistic Lord.

At this point the children head home with their families. They are usually very attentive to keep their souls free from sin as they await 1st Holy Communion. In our case, the children will receive over the next month. One group was blessed to receive the very next day. This is another suggestion of the CGS Rome Model to have the sacraments very close together as indicated in the parables to celebrate immediately when the lost one has been found! While not very common in the United States, it is very beautiful to consider this symbolism.

One final detail, again, rather counter-cultural, but perhaps something to start moving towards, is the return of the children to a retreat environment after the Mass of their 1st Holy Communion. If we reflect on the true intimacy of union with our Lord, it is very desirable to do whatever possible to help the children remain in that joyful spiritual consolation for as long as possible. We want these children, and all of us, to recognize the pinnacle of the celebration is Eucharistic Communion, not the cake afterwards. Perhaps families can be guided to celebrate the following weekend or to connect a party with the Parish’s May Crowning.

Let us not cease to give thanks to God for this fresh outpouring of grace flowing through new little Penitents and Communicants around the world this Spring!!