So today Bella and I started reading a little book that I bought with the intention of looking forward to her first confession and first communion. I’m not positive she will be ready next year; but she’s expressed a very strong interest in making her first confession and I thought that I should at least honor that request by beginning the work to help her get ready. (Interesting, by the way, that it’s confession which has grabbed her interest rather than communion.) Anyway the book began with a section of prayers and one of them was the Confiteor. The book is older so of course it has the old translation so as I was going I was trying to correct to the new translation. Turned out Bella knew it well enough and when I stumbled she continued: “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” Complete with beating her breast. So I guess she has been paying attention at Mass.

I went online to look up the new translation so I could write a correction in the book and I found this article by Father Z. I especially liked this bit here:

The 20th century writer of the Liturgical Movement, Romano Guardini (d. 1968) wrote in his 1955 work Sacred Signs:

“To brush one’s clothes with the tips of one’s fingers is not to strike the breast.  We should beat upon our breasts with our closed fists. … It is an honest blow, not an elegant gesture.  To strike the breast is to beat against the gates of our inner world in order to shatter them.  This is its significance. … ‘Repent, do penance.’  It is the voice of God.  Striking the breast is the visible sign that we hear that summons. … Let it wake us up, and make us see, and turn to God”.

The future Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spirit of the Liturgy (p. 207): “We point not at someone else but at ourselves as the guilty party, [which] remains a meaningful gesture of prayer. … When we say mea culpa (through my fault), we turn, so to speak, to ourselves, to our own front door, and thus we are able rightly to ask forgiveness of God, the saints, and the people gathered around us, whom we have wronged.”

I read this passage to Bella and I’m not sure how much of it sank in. Still, you never know with Bella. 

When we were going over the Ten Commandments we had an interesting moment. The book glossed the Fourth Commandment with the explanation that “we should love and obey our parents and all who are over us.” So I discussed what other people Bella might need to obey. And then it occurred to me that it was important to clarify that while she might need to obey people other than Dom and myself, she should never obey if someone wants her to do something that is a sin, that will hurt herself or someone else. I don’t want to teach her blind obedience to an authority which is misused; but proper respect for proper authority. She pondered this for a few minutes and then responded with an example from her Bible story book that showed she had understood the lesson. She told me about Joseph who was asked to sin by Potiphar’s wife and who refused her request. (The Bible story book properly doesn’t explain what kind of bad thing she wanted him to do, just that she demanded and he refused and that he suffered for the refusal because she falsely accused him of doing the very bad thing he had refused to do.) I was rather pleased to see that she was applying Bible stories to moral lessons.


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  • Interesting that you quote the bit about Allen and the purpose of sending the priests…  My book club read this book, and one of our members raised the question of whether it was worth sending these young men to die.  The passage you cite was the one we read to her.  It was a thought-provoking discussion.

    Have you read “Helena”?

  • That’s the kind of discussion I love. I’m fascinated by the English martyrs right now. But I’m convinced that martyrdom is absolutely necessary.

    I have read Helena. A while back. It didn’t captivate me the way Campion did. I no longer remember exactly why; but Waugh’s Helen kind of irritated me. Maybe I need to read it again, though. I didn’t get Brideshead Revisited the first time I read it either.