It’s only a few days since I last wrote about confession, but today’s discussion of the sacrament is quite a different one. Last week I was writing about the efforts of some to completely alter the nature of the confessional by saying priests who hear confessions from other priests who admit to having interfered with children must report that to the police. The problem? That never happens, according to a number of senior priests, for a variety of reasons, so it would really achieve nothing anyway.
Today, though, I came across a neat article written by a priest, Fr Mike Schmitz, about “My Side of the Confessional”. He starts with a little story, and a powerful statement (emphasis mine):
I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it. “Do you do all of the priest stuff?” “Yep.” “Even the Confession thing?” “Yeah. All the time.”
One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”
I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God. I said, “It would be depressing if I had to watch someone leave God; I get to be with them when they come back to Him.” The Confessional is a place where people let God’s love win. The Confessional is the most joyful, humbling, and inspiring place in the world.
Confession is something that many of us think about a lot, with varying emotions often part of those musings. I must admit, though, that I’ve never really spent any time thinking about what a priest goes through hearing confessions. What a great picture Fr Schmitz paints with this idea of being a helper in a Catholic’s journey back to God. I’m obviously familiar with the idea that we, when we confess, are cleansing our souls, but I’d never considered the joy that a priest would feel in seeing that happen, and playing a role.
Fr Schmitz continues by going through a series of reflections on what he “sees” when hearing someone’s confession, and categorises them under these headings:
- I see a saint in the making.
- Do I remember your sins? No!
- In confession, I see my own weakness.
- I get to sacrifice for you.
It’s a great read on the LifeTeen website. Head over to access the full article.