What to Say to the Penitent
Roman Catholic Books
A startling challenge to all priests, and a down-to-earth book of spiritual instruction that penitents can read for themselves and apply to their daily lives.When the lines of penitents are long, and thenumber of priests hearing is few, it’sunderstandable if the confessors make shortwork of each confession, imposing a routinepenance and a quick absolution. Right?
Wrong! says Father Charles Hugo Doyle,widely regarded as a masterful guide of souls.In the confessional the soul of the penitent is fertile ground, readyfor a brief, to-the-point instruction that only the confessor canprovide. To rush through a confession is to pass on a God-givenopportunity to move a soul further along toward perfection.
The original publisher of What to Say to the Penitent said thatgiven "the near-state of moral collapse in the world," it wasespecially important for confessors to offer their penitents a littlespiritual direction.
That was back in 1953! Imagine what the publisher would saytoday, when sound spiritual advice from the other side of the grilleis needed more desperately than ever.
Father Doyle admits that for years he found it "a mostdifficult and frustrating task" to think of something suitableto say to penitents in confession. Then he had an inspiration:he would base his spiritual direction on the Epistles andGospels from the upcoming Sunday Mass. "Then," he says,"when the person hears the Epistle or Gospel read again onthe following Sunday, the chances are good that the words ofthe confessor will be recalled and suitably applied."
Father Doyle has tailored his spiritual direction for four groups ofpenitents: adults, children, religious, and clerics. For each group heoffers a long and a short instruction. The short instruction takesonly 30 seconds, the "long," 75 seconds.
A confessor can keep Fr. Doyle’s book in the confessional, eitherreading the instruction directly from the book, or if he hasfamiliarized himself with the text, repeat it to each penitent in hisown words. Either way, this book places at the confessor’sfingertips an entire year’s worth of sensible spiritual advice:
"The reflections, based on the Sunday Epistlesand Gospels, are addressed to 4 different groups:adults, children, religious, and clerics. The longest instructiontakes only a minute and a half to give. Practical andinspirational are these guides for confessors."—Liguorian