The sacrament of penance, or reconciliation, helps Catholics recognize “the truth about themselves: that they are beloved children of the Father, who is rich in mercy,” said Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro.
The cardinal, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican court that deals with the sacrament of penance and matters of conscience, said the sacrament is an integral part of evangelization because it is a proclamation of the good news of God’s love. Cardinal Monteiro de Castro, one of the few top Vatican officials whose job does not end with the end of a pontificate, spoke to more than 500 seminarians, deacons and priests attending a March 4-8 Vatican course on the sacrament and matters of conscience. “To evangelize is not only to teach doctrine and proclaim the truth. To evangelize is especially to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel that can touch human hearts and open them to accept the love of God,” he said.
Trusting in God’s mercy
Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, said the priests who are the best confessors know how to balance being a father, counselor and judge; they must know and understand church teaching and know how to convey it in the confessional with “prudence, discretion, discernment and goodness.”
The confessor, he said, must avoid “the danger of creating anguish” in the penitent and instead help him or her learn to “trust the infinite mercy of God.”
The personality of a priest, “his qualities and his defects, have a noticeable weight in the confessional, more than in any other sacrament,” Msgr. Nykiel said.
With ordination, every priest receives the faculty to absolve sins in the name of the Church, he said, but often “the penitent does not need only forgiveness.”
Frequently, the monsignor said, he or she needs education and guidance in forming a truly Christian conscience, or has need of encouragement or comfort.
Exercising the ministry of confessor is “one of the most difficult and delicate tasks for a priest,” he said.
He needs “to intuit situations of fragility, anxiety, pain or situations of superficiality, boasting and pride.”
A priest also needs to be able to set aside his own concerns and worries and the cares of the previous penitent, giving his full attention to the person in front of him at the moment, Msgr. Nykiel said.
Category: The Lesson Plan