"Mommy, What's Confession?"

confessionalLast week, I gave you some simple language with which to explain Catechism in a non-religious way. Today, because it's sort of related, we'll tackle one of the specific rites of passage taught at CCD: Confession.  First, let me say this, rites of passage are massively important parts of organized religion. Without rites, there would be nothing to be affiliated with, nothing to conform to, nothing to hold a group together. Beliefs are important, too — don't get me wrong! — but beliefs are more like the foundation. Customs are the framework. They make religion religion, rather than just spirituality.

The type and number of religious rites, AKA sacraments, observed vary from one religion to the next religion. Catholics have, arguably, the most sacraments — seven of those suckers! — but others have only two or three. Examples of religious rites would be baptism, circumcision, coming of age ceremonies, marriage, pilgrimages, communion, confirmation, confession and death.

I recently had the occasion to explain confession to my daughter—a pub we visited in England had an old church confessional inside, and she was playing in it—so that's why I chose to start with this particular sacrament. (I promise to cover baptism and circumcision soon.)

So what is confession?

The short answer:

Confession is telling someone all the bad things you do.

The long answer: 

If you steal a cookie from the cookie jar, and then you come and tell me about it and apologize, that's a confession. You have confessed to me. Well, some religious people believe that instead of just confessing to your mom or dad or friend or grandma about the bad things you do, you must confess to God, too. They believe God knows and cares about all bad deeds (which are sometimes called "sins"), and therefore confessing is a very important part of their religion. Some people confess directly to God or Allah or Buddha during their prayers; others confess to  a religious leader; still others get together in a group and confess their bad deeds as a group.

If appropriate, and the child is old enough, you might even engage in a conversation about the possible benefits and drawbacks of religious confession. Because there are many.

As always, if you'd like to see something specific addressed as part of the "Mommy, What's That?" series, I'd love to hear them!