As both a high school teacher and parish catechist, I always looked forward to diving into the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Some might call me slightly deranged, but I loved being bombarded by the whines and groans of adolescents who just can’t wrap their growing minds around why we need to confess our sins, especially to a priest. (Please reread the last part with a bit of sarcasm in your internal voice. Having a sense of humor about introducing the Sacrament was always required.)
I would start by silently drawing a triangle on the board and label each point—God, Others, Me. This would elicit one of two responses: silence or “what’s that?”—this teacher’s favorite question.
With a foot in the door, we were off. We would start by talking about relationships, each of the three lines that linked two points, and how what we say and do either nurtures or strains those relationships. Since building relationships is an important task in adolescence, everyone knew, understood, and had stories of how hurtful breaks in any of those three relationships could be. One of the biggest challenges was helping them to see how our words and actions impact our relationship with God, but over time and many examples, it sank in.
And the answer to that ubiquitous question, “why do we have to confess to the priest,” came so naturally once they understood how a wound in any of the three relationships hurt all of them. In the end, it is all about making right our relationships, healing them, strengthening them, understanding them. It is all God asks of us, to be in “right relationship” with Him, others, and ourselves.
This week’s collection of CatholicsRead titles touches on different aspects of what it means to be in right relationship—starting with the quintessential “rule book,” the Scriptures. Where better to find both the declarative and inspirational words that lead us in the ongoing dance of healed to broken and back to healed relationships than in the Bible? From Living with Christ, we have the 2021-2022 Living with Christ Sunday Missal, which includes the readings, prayers, and blessings of the Mass, plus reflections on the readings. Additionally, the USCCB has published its Lectio Divina of the Gospels for the Liturgical Year, 2021-2022.
One of today’s best companions on the journey of faith through sinfulness to reconciliation is Pope Francis. USCCB’s The Power of Forgiveness is a collection of meditations for those of us who are seeking insight and humility in the face of our humanness.
As Catholics, we are blessed with an abundance of models and companions to help show us how to be in a grace-filled relationship with God. Sweet Cross: A Marian Guide to Suffering from OSV focuses on Mary, who understands the crosses that we bear, and patiently, humbly keeps her relationships at the center of who she is. Jumping to the present, RENEW International’s Women in Conversation: Stand Up! is a small-group resource that serves as a tool to help women of faith journey together, accompanying each other in the task of building right relationships.
The three remaining titles provide examples of the attitude and spirit we need to cultivate in order to better build and nourish our relationships. OSV’s Better Than OK: Finding Joy as a Special-Needs Parent is the account of Kelly Mantoan, a mother of two special needs children, and how she learned to shift her focus away from the negatives of the diagnosis and toward acceptance, renewed faith, and joy.
Fr. Blake Britton also has joy and awe in his approach to Reclaiming Vatican II from Ave Maria Press. Fr. Britton relates how his rediscovery of the truth and beauty of the Second Vatican Council has transformed his parish.
We end with Pope Francis again in Diverse Yet United: Communicating Truth in Charity from OSV. Pope Francis invites us to openly welcome and dialogue with those who think differently from us or who hold conflicting opinions. This is very important when we talk about reconciliation and righting our relationships.
Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.