One thing I’ve learned, as a minister of sacramental confession, is that hearing another person identify and repent of their sins is never scandalising or discouraging. It’s always edifying and encouraging.
It has made me a better penitent. When another person shares with me how they have discerned blind spots and sin in their life, my own blind spots and sin are illuminated, which is the first step in conversion.
Of course, these sin that I hear are really none of my business. I “overhear,” as it were, a conversation between the penitent and God. Hence the sacramental seal. I consciously and conscientiously forget everything I’ve heard before stepping out of the confessional. But still, the “impression” stays — that mix of admiration and humility and gratitude to God.
Not everyone reading this can hear confessions. But I think you’ll know exactly what I mean if you follow the link at the bottom of this post. Calah Alexander, who blogs at Barefoot and Pregnant, has published a great “confessional post.”
Blogs seem to lend themselves to confessional writing. Confessional writing can be boring and introspective. It can be embarrassingly bad (“too much information!”). Or it can be profoundly edifying. Calah’s post is definitely the latter. (It happens to incorporate a story about sacramental confession, but that’s accidental to my point.)
I’ve never heard a priest laugh so hard in the confessional. The screen between us actually shook. His amusement made me realize how absurd I was. It was humbling (and kind of hilarious) to see myself acting just like my stubborn, prideful, wonderful Charlotte, who regularly spends two solid hours sobbing in her room because I asked her to pick it up and “it will take too loooooooooong! (hicccup).”
Read it, and be edified. The Jew, the Samaritan, the ‘Other’, me.
“I “overhear,” as it were, a conversation between the penitent and God.”
Like a witness to repentance.
“I consciously and conscientiously forget everything I’ve heard before stepping out of the confessional. But still, the “impression” stays — that mix of admiration and humility and gratitude to God.”
Even better! A great incentive to make one priest one’s confessor! Thanks, Fr John.
Fr John, I should say that this article is VERY WELL WRITTEN. God bless you, Fr John. I will definitely try to use this when I do my program. It would encourage people to go to confession and not be afraid. I will them that you are a safe priest to confess to. Lol! Thank you Fr John. God bless you.