What does it take to be a good confessor?
Well, Pope Francis gave three tips today when he received in audience participants in the 28th annual course on the “Internal Forum,” organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary (Rome, Chancellery Palace, March 14-17, 2017)
He began saying how the penitentiary is the type of tribunal he truly likes “because it is a “tribunal of mercy,” to which one turns to obtain that indispensable medicine for our soul, that is Divine Mercy!”
In his intervention, he pondered how does one become a good confessor, noting three crucial ways.
First of all, he stressed, a “good confessor” is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
“Without this friendship, it will be very difficult to mature that paternity, which is so necessary in the ministry of Reconciliation. To be friends of Jesus means first of all to cultivate prayer. Be it personal prayer with the Lord, asking incessantly for the gift of pastoral charity.”
One cannot forgive in the Sacrament, the Pontiff highlighted, without the awareness of having been forgiven first. And, therefore, he stressed that prayer is “the first guarantee to avoid every attitude of harshness, which uselessly judges the sinner and not the sin.”
Second, he continued, a good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment.
“How much harm comes to the Church by the lack of discernment! How much harm comes to souls from action that does not sink its roots in humble listening to the Holy Spirit and to the will of God.”
“The confessor does not do his own will and he does not teach his own doctrine. He is called to do always and only the will of God, in full communion with the Church, of which he is minister, that is, servant.”
The way to distinguish and not confuse, he stressed, is discernment.
Confessional as Place of Evangelization
Third, he continued, the Confessional is also a true and proper place of evangelization.
“In fact, there is no more genuine evangelization than in the encounter with the God of mercy, with the God who is Mercy. To encounter mercy means to encounter the true face of God, as the Lord Jesus has revealed it.”
Francis also reminded those present that hearing confessions is a pastoral priority, not to be contingent upon timetables.
“Please, let there not be those notices: “Confessions are heard only on Mondays and Wednesdays from this hour to that hour.” You hear confessions every time they are requested. And if you are there [in the Confessional] praying, keep the Confessional open, which is God’s open heart.”
Pope Francis concluded, giving them his blessing and later in the day he heard confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica himself.
* * *
On ZENIT’s Web page: