A good friend of mine asked me to write about what it’s like to hear confessions.
The truth is, a priest can’t say much about the content he hears in confession, but in nearly every confession I have heard, I have said the following:
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to Himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you of yours sins, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For many Catholics these are among the most consoling and the most powerful words they hear. For a Catholic priest they are among the most joyful to say.
I have had the privileged of experiencing how this simple but profound prayer has a power far beyond any council or insight I can offer. It renews, heals, transforms, and most importantly, forgives; not just in theory, but in reality.
I wish I could have had a camera to take a picture of people’s smiles after hearing their confession; some have such a radiant joy, only a picture could transmit the emotion. To know that my own priesthood has brought so much freedom and joy to someone else is in itself a true joy.
I think it’s important to emphasize this point, since many, myself included, wonder what the priest will think about how terrible and wretched the sins we confess are, and it is probably the number one reason why we stay away.
Yet what the priest remembers, and what he wants to offer, is the joy of forgiveness.
In short, that his been my experience of confession; both as a priest offering forgiveness, and as a priest receiving absolution when I go to confession, as well.