Reactions from priests to the Guide for Confessors

About the Guide for Confessors… I asked priests for some comments.

Here is one I thought was very good.

Here’s my thoughts:  an “awesome” (as the kids say) echo and complement to Misericordia Dei.  My favorite lines tend to occur in the intro, actually, as nice handy phrases:

Whenever a confessor is available, sooner or later a penitent will arrive. And if the confessor continues to make himself available, even stubbornly so, sooner or later many penitents will arrive!

-Amen!  “People don’t come, so I only do 15 mins-30 mins” is a lame, lame, lame excuse.

“Our rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, both as penitents and as ministers, is a measure of authentic faith in the saving action of God which shows itself more clearly in the power of grace than in human strategic or pastoral initiatives which sometimes overlook this essential truth.”

-I read this as “You have some programs.  That’s nice and helpful, but not enough.  Confession gets to the heart of the matter!”  [I read it also as “Hey priests!  To understand the sacrament of penance, you have to use the sacrament yourself.”]

“In the generous celebration of the Sacrament of Divine Mercy, each priest is called to experience for himself the uniqueness and the indispensability of the ministry entrusted to him. Such an experience will help him to avoid the “ever-changing sense of identity” which so often marks the existence of some priests.”

-Highlight, italicize it: “GENEROUS.”  And yes, we come to see we are ministers of grace, not accountants, plant managers, counselors, human resource managers, but priests of Christ.

The “filling out” and explanation of the role and method of a spiritual director is also a nice, handy, and valuable summary, as well as the need for our own spiritual care (lest we forget we are priests, or think that *we* are the ones who are doing all this great work of mercy, save as instruments of God.

That point about spiritual direction is good.  I noticed that the Guide makes a distinction between confession and spiritual direction, though they are obviously related, and in a deep way.  First, they both involve what is called the internal forum, which is under the Seal, and which involves a solemn responsibility.  But people – priests included – sometimes confuse confession time for spiritual direction time.  It can be, but not always.   While it is true that a regular confession will involve some small element also of “spiritual direction”, in the normal course of hearing confessions with lines of people waiting, a longer conversation is not always possible.   So, all squares are rectangles but not rectangles are squares.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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