Among the many books of St. George Preca, there is one called Gabinetti. This book includes 85 short stories from which St George Preca brings out practical instructions suitable for our everyday life. The following is a story presented in the Gabinetti:
WHEN WE FEEL SHY TO CONFESS A SIN IN CONFESSION
The boys of the oratory of Saint John Bosco used to receive from him the sacrament of Confession. To one of them, he said: “My son, do your confession well.” Because he realized that the boy was finding it difficult to mention a sin he had committed. When feeling shy to mention a sin during Confession, one should tell the confessor that there is something which is embarrassing for him to mention. This leads the confessor to understand the situation, and thus, gently leads the person to confess his sin.
The Gabinetti lead us to reflection. Perhaps today Confession is no longer popular. Unlike when we used to queue for Confession, mostly on Saturday evening, to get prepared for Sunday Mass. Those who are sceptical about Confession may say: “Why should I confess to a priest? Confessing my sins in front of a crucifix could be enough.” Jesus never proposed this and wants us to humbly approach the priest in whose name he forgives our sins. The priest can share a word with us to help us overcome our shortcomings, especially when it a sin is troubling us. The crucifix will not speak to us while the priest forgives us in the name of Jesus, the same merciful Jesus we find in the Gospel.
A Celebration of Joy
When we go to the same priest for Confession, he gets to know us, making us more comfortably express ourselves. He will understand us right away. And when we manage to express our sins, we immediately feel relieved and happy. We may recall the three parables of mercy found in Luke’s Gospel. Joy is mentioned six times. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost drachma, and the prodigal son. They help us understand God’s joy when he finds what was lost, as did the shepherd, the woman and the father of the son who asked for his share and left his father’s house.
In these parables, the shepherd joyfully puts the sheep on his shoulders and says: “Rejoice with me because I have found the lost sheep”; the woman who found the coin says: “Rejoice with me because I have found the drachma I had lost”; in the parable of the prodigal son: “There will be joy before the angels of God”; and the father says: “Bring the fattened calf and let us eat and celebrate”; and also: “rejoice and be thankful because my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost, and is found”. Indeed, Confession is a celebration of joy.
The Secret of Confession
In his writings as well as in his talks, Pope Francis mentions quite often this joy and invites all to take part in this act of forgiveness. It is so easy to meet the priest in Confession once we are convinced that he is ready to hear us and forgive us. What we say to him will remain strictly confidential. It is unheard of that a Confessor ever disclosed someone’s sins.
Let us refer to the story of St John Nepomucene in the 14th century. He was a priest from the Czech Republic, which at that time was Bohemia. He was executed by the king because he did not want to reveal what the queen had confessed. He is a patron saint of confessors. Until before World War II there was a monument of the Saint in Floriana, corner with Saint Anne Street and Saint Thomas Street. This stone statue had the saint standing on a high pedestal and with a little angel with his index finger on his lips, symbolising silence. This statue was made to commemorate Fr Giovanni Gatt who was killed near the Porte de Bombes Gate because he refused to reveal the secret of confession.
This reality of the secret of Confession helps us to approach the sacrament with confidence. We are encouraged to regularly receive Confessions, especially in the liturgical times of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter to better prepare ourselves for the sacred celebrations.