Does Mrs. Ryan do a good job of preparing the children to make their first confession?

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To discuss whether Mrs. Ryan does a good job preparing the children for their first confession, it's important to understand why Catholics confess their sins to a priest. Relying on Scripture, they believe that confession is a means of finding spiritual peace and is the best path toward reconciling a broken relationship with God. Confession is therefore a means of spiritual healing.

Mrs. Ryan makes it her purpose to convince Jackie to attend confession. She doesn't rely on Scripture in these conversations with him and doesn't try to teach him the purpose of confession. Her goal is not to give Jackie peace; instead, her goal is to scare him into submission.

Thus, Mrs. Ryan presents vivid images of hell, asking Jackie and his friends to hold their fingers in a flame for five minutes for a nice sum of money and then reminding them that the flames of hell are eternal. She tells them the story of a man who once made a bad confession and begged a priest to listen to his confession—yet died before he could do so, leaving behind only two charred handprints where he had been gripping the priest's bed. She convinces Jackie that he has "broken the whole ten commandments" and that he has no hope of doing any better.

Jackie is thus scared into attending confession, which is different than approaching the opportunity with a repentant heart and seeking restoration. Mrs. Ryan was quite effective in convincing the children that they needed to appear at confession, but she didn't adequately prepare their hearts for the ultimate purpose of healing a broken relationship with God through a confession of sin.

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