Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teaching Sin

When I was a child, we went to the sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving our First Communion. Today, this is often not the case in my parish. The leader of sacramental preparation said children are not required to go to Reconciliation first because they are too young to benefit. They don't understand sin.

It seems to me that if a child is mature enough to receive Eucharist with proper reverence and understanding, he is able to recognize his sinfulness. If he cannot, the fault lies in his teachers and parents, not in spiritual immaturity.

First Communion, age 8

I do think children need instruction in forming their consciences. As a third grade Sunday School teacher, I do multiple lessons on sinfulness. As a class, we define sin and discuss its consequences for an individual and the community. They learn that sin damages our relationship with God, even if no other person knows it happened.

Finally, we look at real-life situations. These encompass sins of omission and commission across various settings. Some are straightforward, others ambiguous. Working through these situations helps the children learn what it means to seek God above all else. As a teacher, this activity reflects to me whether I have taught well or if we need to continue learning about this topic.

I have included these situations below for you to use with your own children if you desire.
For each situation, decide whether it is an example of a mistake, temptation, or sin.


1.      You are grocery shopping with your parents and REALLY hungry, so you take a candy out of one of those bins and eat it while you keep shopping.

2.      The teacher wants to know who spilled juice on her desk during snack time. You know who it was, but you are scared to tell her.

3.      You told your friend you would call today when you got home from school, but you forgot.

4.      You were so tired last night you couldn’t finish your homework. Today, you quickly copy the answers from your friend before the class hands in their papers.

5.      When you get home, your dad asks how much homework you have. You pretend you didn’t hear him and hope he will forget to ask again later.

6.      Your brother or sister is being annoying again. You want to sneak into his or her room and mess up everything.

7.      There is a substitute teacher for your class. A bunch of kids change seats and lie about their names. You do, too, so they won’t make fun of you later.

8.      There is a plate of cookies on the table where your snack is usually kept. You eat one, but find out later that those were supposed to be for your aunt.

9.      You are running around in gym class and knock someone over because you didn’t see him.

10.  That weird kid is sitting alone again at lunch. You say a prayer for him and hope other kids will invite him to sit at their table.

11.  The mean girl in your class comes over and says she is sorry for hurting your feelings. You make a face and tell her to go away; you don’t want to be friends with people who are mean.

12.  It is Sunday morning and time to go to church, but you are tired and your bed is nice and warm. You would much rather stay home this week.

13.  Your mom asks you to clean your room. You really plan to do it, but then a friend comes over so you go out to play. The room does not get cleaned.

14.  You are carrying your lunch back to your seat when someone accidentally steps on your shoe and you trip. Your entire lunch lands in someone’s lap.

15.  You go to church on Sunday and pray at dinner with your family. You decide not to pray at bed time because you would rather daydream about tomorrow.

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