In 1975, I was preparing for my first communion. (For non-Catholics, the two key take-aways are: First Communion is when you receive the Eucharist for the first time. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. But when you’re seven, it just seems like thin, stale bread and really bad wine; however, sometimes they give the kids grape juice and then you feel totally lucky and chosen by God. Now I need to head to confession for disrespecting the Eucharist and revealing secret Catholic-kid stuff)
Prior to First Communion, you go to first confession where you explain your sins to a priest and he grants you forgiveness. This is all big stuff for a shy seven-year-old.
Mom and I spent time practicing what I should confess. I planned to tell Father Rink that I fought with my brother and didn’t always eat my dinner. Before heading to church, my mom sat with me on the sofa and said, “We’re going to leave soon, and you’ll be just fine, but if you never want to do this again, you don’t have to. You can talk to God whenever you want. You don’t need a priest with you to do that.”
I am certain there were not many other Catholic mothers handing out this advice to their daughters. I was only seven, but that comment from my mom formed the foundation of my relationship with God. It was a gift from her. It wasn’t so much about her faith in God; it was about her faith in me and my ability to choose.