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Class for Children - Baptism and Confession

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Class for Children
Montini High School
Chicago, Illinois
September 20, 1985

Baptism and Confession

You may wonder why I came here to speak to you. Well, for about 10 years now, I have been teaching, coming in usually two weekends a month to teach in Chicago. I am member of the Society of Jesus. Does anybody know what schools the Society of Jesus runs in Chicago? What schools are run by the Jesuits in Chicago? Anybody know. (Murmuring) Loyola University and what else? Loyola Academy and St. Ignatius High School. I have been teaching Jesuits studying for the priesthood and priests for over twenty-five years. As you can see, I am much older than you are.

We take a special vow – anybody know what a vow is? No idea what a vow is. Can anyone among the children know how to spell “vow”?


That’s enough. Stop. V-O-W. When you take a vow, you promise God to do something more than you have to. Now we, as Jesuits, we take a vow of poverty. I don’t own anything. In order to come to Chicago, I had to ask my superior for the money I needed to get here. And to be able to make it, I had to take a discount airline. Ever hear of People Express? Well, I had class last night at St. Johns University in New York until 8 o’clock. My plane left, or was to have left, from New York at 9:25. But they had overbooked. They had more passengers than they had room for. I couldn’t get on that flight. So I prayed, I said five rosaries.

How many of you have rosaries? Put up your hands. If you need any rosaries – do you need a rosary? You have one, eh? Because I can get you some rosaries.

I said five rosaries. I said, “Lord, get me to Chicago.” So I called and I found out there was another airline, Eastern Airlines, leaving at 1:40 this morning. So I got to Chicago at 3 o’clock this morning. Then I got a little sleep, then I taught this morning and I taught this afternoon.

But there is one special vow that we take. And that’s why I’m here. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity – we don’t marry. Your mother and father are married. My mother and dad were married. But we don’t marry. And we take a vow of obedience to obey our superior. But we take one more vow and that is of obedience to the Holy Father.

Who is the Holy Father? I bet you don’t know. What’s his name? (“God.” Laughter.) What’s his full name? (More laughter) What’s his full name? First name is John. Second name (“Paul”) then what? John Paul the (“Second”). You’re right. His full name is John Paul the (more voices “Second.”) Now we make a special promise to God that we will obey the Holy Father. But listen. We will obey the Holy Father especially in teaching children.

Now I keep that promise in other ways. I teach parents, hoping that they will teach their children. Besides these learned books that the deacon showed you, I also, I work with – now these are some samples that I got. But I also work with Loyola University Press. They publish books for children. And this year, six hundred thousand children are using those books. But –

Do you use that book? Honest? I bet that you don’t know the name of the series. What is the – What year are you in, what grade are you in, what class are you in? (“Fourth.”) Fourth. It is called “Christ Our Life” series. Gee, thanks.

I have never in my life taught one class to children. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had the privilege of teaching to children. I have to keep from using big words. What is your first name? (“Dorothy.”) Could you understand what I am saying – do you know what I am saying? (“Yes.”) OK. That’s most important.

I came here because some of your parents asked if I could come. And I’m very happy to be here. My question is, if I come back, will you come back? (Laughter and clapping, then … “Are you nervous?”) I used to be, but I’m not nervous anymore. I’m not nervous anymore, at least I don’t think I am.

As you know, if I could just speak to the children – you adults – and see how well I do. You children have all been baptized. What did the priest or the deacon do when you were baptized? What do they do? (“They pour holy water—”)They pour water and what does the priest or the deacon say when they pour the water? Remember? (Giggles and whispers.) “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Now, when you were baptized, something very important happened to you. How many of you were baptized as babies, how many? Was anybody baptized when they were older, like say ... You were baptized when you were older? No. You’re not old yet.

Now when you are baptized, who knows, what’s the first thing that happens to you when you were baptized? What happens when you’re baptized? (Answer not clear, explaining what happens during baptism.) OK, but what happens inside? (“You become, you become the child of God.”) OK. You become a child of God. We become children of God when we are baptized. Now what does that mean? When you were baptized, suppose, suppose you were to die right after your baptism? Where would you go? You’d go straight to (“heaven.”) heaven. So you become a child of God and you go to heaven.

But when we get older, what happens? Who knows what we commit? We commit (“sin.”) You know how to spell “sin”?


S-I-N. OK. Now when we sin, what do we do? What happens when we sin? (“We disobey God.”) We disobey God, did you say that? Wonderful. Children, I hope we meet again. But don’t forget, when you sin, you what? (murmur) You disobey God, you offend God. OK? And what do you have to tell God after you have sinned. (“You go to confession and you say you’re sorry.”) That you are sorry, right? OK. And besides telling God you are sorry, what you say? Say now, you’re six, seven or eight years old. What should you also do besides telling God you are sorry, you should also do what? (“Say I’m never gonna do it again.”) Say that again? (“Never gonna do it a-gain.”)

OK, OK. But is it enough to just tell God, “My God, I am sorry?” What should you also do? (“Go to confession.”) Thank you for using that word “confession.” Not many people use that word anymore. You go to confession. Whom do you go to confession to? (whisper.) To a what? (“To a priest.”) To a priest. I was just ordained and I was in Cleveland – anyone been to Cleveland? No. Thanks, that’s my hometown.

My mother, who was widowed – I lost my father when I was just a year old, so just my mother and I – and I was to have visited her in Cleveland, but I received an invitation to hear the confessions of twenty-eight children who were going to make their First Confession. And I spent almost three hours hearing their confessions. While I was hearing the children’s confessions, my mother had a heart attack and she died. So I will never forget how important it is to hear children’s confessions.

Part of my job is I teach priests. And I tell them, I beg them, encourage the children to go to confession. Do you have to have big sins when you go to confession? (“No.”) Is it all right if you just have little sins? (“Yes.”) Like for example, if someone can think of three sins that are not big, but they’re sins, that, when you go to confession you can tell the priest, “I did this, I did that and I didn’t something else.” What is one thing you can tell the priest you did wrong? (“You hurt someone.”) You hurt somebody. Another. (“You lied.”) You were? (“You lied.”) All right, you lied.

Children, my day is made if someone can tell me what is a lie. I bet nobody knows what a lie is. (“When you, um, tell somebody something about someone that’s not true.”) When you say something about somebody that’s not true. Very good. Can someone give me another example? (“Like when you, your mom tells you to do something and you don’t.”) When mom says to … to do something or to get home and you don’t come. Right? (“Uh, huh.”) She tells you to do something and you don’t do that. (“And she says you can’t go outside to play and until you’re done and you go outside.”) Very good.

Now here’s the wonderful thing, children. If you start going to confession, oh wait a minute, I’m in the middle of confession, now what? (“If you miss Mass.”) If you miss Mass. Oh. Now when you miss Mass, children, who can tell me, missing Mass, is that a big sin or a little sin? (Noise, no coherent answer.) That say? (“Little.”) That say? Is that a big sin or a little sin? That’s a big sin. OK? That’s a big sin. Now, children, if you start going to confession when you’re young, later on, when you get older, you will go to confession regularly. I’ve never had a chance to tell children this: Children, guess how often I go to confession. (Murmur.) Every (“Every day.”) Every day. Honest.

I had dinner with a priest in Lake Zurich on the (can’t make out words) and I said, “I’m going to be picked up at 6:15.” I’d love it. Give me a chance to say some prayers. Well, I said, “Father, before I leave, I want to go to confession.” So he sat down, put his stole around him. What’s a stole? (“That’s what goes around your neck.”) Goes around your neck, right? (“Yea.”) What color is a stole? Well, for confession. (“White.” “Red.” “Green.” Laughter) You’re getting close. What color is the stole when you go to confession? (“Purple.”) Can it be green, or blue, or white, or red? Or Chris? (“Purple.”) Purple. Purple. You’re absolutely right. Purple. When you go to confession, go as often as you can. I really mean it, I try to go every day. Why not? I think it’s a good idea. I’ve been doing that … you’d never guess, for thirty years. Once in a while I miss, but I try not to miss.

Well, children, that’s the first thing I want to tell you. The moment you do something wrong, what should you tell our Lord? Right away? “Jesus, I’m …” (“sorry.”) “Jesus, I am sorry.” As soon as you do something wrong, right away, tell Him, “Jesus, I am sorry.” And then, go to confession soon. That’s my first lesson to you.

Children, have all of you, this is not a general confession, may I ask, have all of us, has everyone in this room, done something wrong? Has everyone done something wrong? Before I made my first confession, the sister who was teaching us she gave us lists of different sins. I jotted down twenty-one sins. I was seven years old. But one of my friends in class, he beat me. He had twenty-two sins to confess.

We should confess, I would say, if you can, at least once every two weeks. And if possible, children, every week. Now, may I ask the hard question? Can you go to confession to anybody else? Must it be a priest to go to confession? Yes, he has to be a priest. Now children, if you want to go to confession, what would you do? Say in your parish. I’m sure you’re from different parishes, aren’t you? Where would you go to confession? Do you have confessions? Children, I really want to help. How often do you have confessions in your church? Who remembers? How often? (“Sometimes like every Saturday.”) Every Saturday. Well, but, does everybody get a chance to go to confession? If you children wanted to go to confession, what would you do? (“I’d ride my bike down.”) You’d get on your bike. And where would you go? (“Our mom lets us ride our bikes to Mass.”) OK. Now, where would you go? What priest would you go to?

Children, I’m telling you more maybe than you realize. If, are you telling me when you do something wrong, you should go to confession. And you told me, did I hear you correct? You told me that you have to go to confession to a priest, is that right? (“Yes.”) Now, children, let me tell you. When I was your age in Cleveland and we went to confession, my mother brought me up real good. She had a hard time; she had only me. How many of you are the only children in the family? How many? Are you the only son or daughter in the family? You lucky children! My mother went to confession, every week. And I did that, too, so I could be like her. But we had confessions – listen to this – we had confessions in the afternoon on Saturdays from 3 to 5:30. And in the evening from 7:30 to 9. And there were always two priests, hear it, and they had a long line going to confession. Do any of your churches have long lines of people going to confession? Children? (“Yea.”) You do? Oh, how – well, let me shake your hand.

Copyright © 2004 by Inter Mirifica

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