It’s Lent and I’m in the confessional more than usual.
At times it is wearying, but more often it is refreshing. I actually love hearing confessions and here are ten reasons why;
1. A Truly Penitent Person is Beautiful – It is always pleasant to be with beautiful people, and when a person is truly penitent they are beautiful. Of course some of those who make their confession are less than beautiful. Maybe they are making a bad confession by just going through the motions. Maybe they are making a superficial confession and have not really examined their conscience. Maybe they are proud and resistant and lying in the confessional. All that happens. But more often the person is open hearted and truly wanting to make a good and honest confession. When that happens, whether they are in the chair opposite me or behind the screen they are truly beautiful and it is a joy to be with them.
2.A Truly Penitent Person is Courageous Whether it is a child or an old person, to come into the confessional and make a good and honest confession requires simple courage and a strong will. When I see that courage in the face of a man or woman, boy or girl I am struck with amazement and joy. What human being can step up and admit their fault and take responsibility for what is wrong like this? Most go down the route of self righteousness and blame, but here is an ordinary human being who, even just a little, wants to own up and pick up their share of the trash.
3. A Truly Penitent Person is a Great Human Being – Confession is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. A truly penitent person is a great human being. They have decided to take the path of spiritual growth and to roll up their sleeves and become all they were created to be. By admitting their fault they are asking for grace, and to do so is the mark of greatness. I love being with people like that. They invigorate me and make me glad to be in their company.
4. Their confessions prompt my own – So often as I sit there and they tell me what they’ve done I am saying in my mind, “Yes, that’s me. I’ve done that too. I hadn’t seen it until now, but yes, I’ve thought that. I’ve said that. I’ve done that.” Then as I pronounce the absolution I hope and pray that my own soul may be absolved and that I can join them on this journey to greatness.
5. I am humbled by the role I have been given At the point of absolution I am constantly thinking, “What has been given to me that I should have the power to absolve sins? How can I deal with this power to deliver souls from their sin and to deliver them from the power of Satan? Who am I to do this?” Yet God, in his mercy has granted this apostolic authority to ordinary men like myself and that is a joyful and humbling thing. Sometimes when I am going out to hear confessions I’ll say half joking, “Time to go and save some souls.” But of course, that is exactly what is happening and that is amazing.