How to be an Amazing Confessor

You can become a confessor like the saints.

Confessors are the “guides of our souls”.
–St. Francis de Sales

Before you can become inspired to be a confessor like the saints, there needs to be a deep understanding of the marvel and magnificence of the confessor which is something that can be lost in the daily hustle and bustle of the priesthood. Through the merit of Christ’s death and resurrection, the confessor is God’s gift of salvation to the people. Without absolution (forgiveness) from all mortal sins committed after baptism surely souls would perish into the eternal fire if it were not for the power which Christ breathed onto His chosen priests that comes forth from their blessed hands. (cf. John 20: 22-23) Confession is the sole ordinary means to save a soul that has broken its relationship with God and His Church (Can. 960).

There [confession] the GREATEST miracles take place
–Jesus- St. Faustina’s Diary—1448

deeply--humbleThe above quote from Jesus in St. Faustina’s Diary should really enlighten everyone to the absolute importance of confession. Where does the greatest miracle take place? Not even the Holy Eucharist can bring someone back to life by restoring within them sanctifying grace after it was lost since baptism. Only Christ, working through the confessor, in the sacrament of reconciliation can do that.

God can also work through the priest in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to purify souls but only of their venial sins.* A soul that is dead is brought back to life through the sacrament of reconciliation. The power coming through the priest hands, in confession, is the only ordinary means a soul is reunited with God and the Church. The priest is a gift, another great act of mercy, sent to us from God, to save our souls. Now, not only are we saved through baptism, but everyone outside of perfect contrition, who has sinned mortally, is saved too by God working through the hands of His miraculous confessor. Almost as important, is the priests responsibility for guiding each and every soul who enters the confessional toward Our Lord and away from sin so they can learn to “sin no more” and stay on the narrow road to salvation. What an incredible responsibility and privilege!

The office of the confessor is of all offices the most important and the most difficult. –St Francis de Sales

A deep sense of humility must be present in the confessor so he can continue to pursue greater paths of holiness and ways in which he can improve being a light for the people. There must be constant change since there is never ending growth potential. Great temptations exist for some priests, especially with much education and/or gifts from God, to feel there is nothing more they can learn, that they have already acquired everything there is to know about confession which leaves them blind to the countless lessons and enlightenment God has in-store for them. God wishes for each confessor to save souls like the saints and below you will find some inspiration to do so.

To adequately guide souls,
a confessor needs to be:

  • holy–desires to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect”
  • well versed in matters of moral theology
  • willing to labor for the salvation of souls

Go to your confessor; open your heart to him; display to him all the recess of your soul; take the advice that he will give you with the utmost humility and simplicity. For God, who has an infinite love for obedience, frequently renders profitable the counsels we take from others, but especially from those who are the guides of our souls.
— St. Francis de Sales

confessors-words-trnasform2Sadly, confession is sometimes thought of, and practiced as, nothing more than the penitent generically listing their sins, and then being granted forgiveness. That is confession in its most basic form which is, of course, valid if nothing else is available, but it isn’t the fullness of the sacrament. When confession is restricted in such a manner, many blessings and graces from the sacrament are lost. This is not how the saints throughout the history of the Church to the present age have viewed confession.

Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians [Catholics]. –St. Teresa of Avila

Saint Faustina goes so far as to describe this type of confession as damaging to the soul, (click to learn why). The saints from Saint Alphonsus, patron saint of confessors, to Saint Pope John Paul II, define confession as MUCH  MORE than that. Sadly, somewhere, through the years, the true meaning of confession has been lost for some.

By reading the above quote from Saint Francis de Sales, we can easily see how the penitent is called to open their hearts to their confessor and go into depth about their sins with humility, and take the godly advice given to them to help eradicate sin from their life. Saint Pope John Paul II, as well as Saint Padre Pio and many others, would spend countless hours hearing confessions in order to help guide souls away from sin, since it is sin that keeps a soul from God, salvation and a life of joy.

Any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved [stopped].
–St. Pope John Paul II

Every ordained priest has the gift of guiding souls away from sin to restore them into union with the Lord, and to help them grow and transform their lives into holiness. This is done not only through spiritual direction, but also through the Spirit driven words in the confessional. Be an amazing confessor! Below you will read techniques you can use to guide souls away from sin like the saints. Being a confessor can and should be one of the high points of being a priest, as a great confession can truly be life-changing for the penitent. This is how souls are saved, and what an amazing role a confessor has!

There is nothing more disappointing for a penitent than to enter the confessional looking for help and not receiving any. Being full of fear and pouring out one’s sins, only to be told, “I would like you to pray three Hail Mary’s—your sins have been forgiven” is such a turn-off for many penitents. The penitent may choose to not confess to that particular priest again, or far worse, abandon the sacrament altogether because they feel cheated or unloved, and then they might tell others what a disheartening experience it was diminishing the grandeur of the sacrament.This is not how confession should go—no one should ever leave the confessional feeling anything short of being fully immersed in God’s love, light and mercy.

Sometimes for penitents, who are striving for sanctity, who have been given great self-knowledge, they are directed away from frequenting the sacrament being accused of having a scrupulous heart, when the penitent is simply desiring to grow into holiness and purity from the grace Our Lord delivers through confession. It is in grave error to suggest that confession is only for mortal sins, or it must be only sought occasionally when the possibility of grave sin might be present. If the saints, who most likely had perfect contrition and probably possessed what we would consider venial sins, frequented confession (weekly or even daily, when possible) there must be more to the sacrament than some might understand as the saints have proven it simply isn’t only for what we consider to be mortal sins.

…clergy who make light of, who lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien, alien to the spirit of Christ and disastrous to the Mystical Body of Christ.
— Servant of God Pope Pius VII


The confessor must:

  • pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and for each penitent’s soul.
  • guide each soul towards God and away from any mortal sin or sin in general.
  • inspire and suggest change
  • decide to absolve or not absolve
  • give an adequate penance

The penitent must:

  • pray and examine his conscience well…most don’t know how to do this
  • be truly sorry–hate all of their sin and resolve to sin no more [strive for perfection] (CCC 1451)
  • be willing to actually do something to try to not recommit his sins again
  • perform his penance

It [the office of the confessor] is the most important, because on it depends the eternal salvation of souls. –St. Alphonsus


Lord, please send us laborers for the harvest.
Lord, please send us laborers for the harvest.

Not all priests are comfortable in the confessional, nor do they feel they always do an adequate job directing souls away from sin. Thus, they may shy away from hearing confessions or say nothing to the penitents in the form of guidance, and only give them a basic penance. Yes, directing someone improperly in confession is a great offense to God and is both harmful to the priest and penitent’s soul and should be taken very seriously. To adequately guide souls, a confessor needs to be well versed in matters of Moral Theology and willing to labor for the salvation of souls. And of course it is true that the main purpose of confession is the forgiveness of sins, through the priest acting In persona Christi (in the person of Christ), and sins will be forgiven whether the priest says any words of guidance or not; however, a priest can do, and is called to do so much more to help penitents avoid future sins by giving them life-changing words of guidance. The following will give you simple yet effective techniques you can use to effectively guide the penitent out of the darkness and into the light.

  The directing of souls [in confession] is the art of arts.
— St. Gregory

Unfortunately, many approach the confessional blinded to their sins. They say, “I don’t sin.” The apostle John declared that this statement is derived from darkness due to sin. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). Some believe they only need to go to confession for their “current sins.” They operate under the misguided notion that since they haven’t recently committed any big sins—even though they haven’t been to confession in years—that it’s all good and they don’t need the sacrament. Then there are those who confess the same sins over and over again, without ever changing their ways, due to a lack of effort to modify their life to avoid repeating their sins which all stems from a lack of love for God. When our love is complete our desire for true repentance (hate of one’s sins) is complete too. Growing close to God is hard work; it takes effort. If people wish to sin no more and live a joyful life—a life without hurting Our Lord through their transgressions—they will need to take action to know their sins by examining their conscience properly and avoid them, as opposed to brushing it all off with the excuse, “Oh well, this is just how I am.” The priest can help them to see the error of their ways and guide them on the path to salvation. This is the challenge.


Give us fit [knowledgeable in theology] confessors, and surely the whole of Christianity will be reformed. –St. Pope Pius V

God calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect for a reason—so we can grow in holiness. Holiness is for everyone. However, it is our sins that prevent us from doing so. God made us all beautiful, in His likeness, therefore we need to peel off the ugliness of our sins and let God’s amazing beauty radiate from within us. If sinners would only approach the confessional with true sorrow and the desire to change, then God would flood their souls with grace after grace to help them live good, holy, joyful lives.

“Sin increased [because of the increased knowledge after the Law], grace overflowed all the more [from God’s generous heart desiring our salvation]” (Romans5:20).

To Him [confessor] we must fully open our hearts. If we do so, he will be able to tell us what the Lord wishes of us. Once we have chosen a confessor, we must go to him steadily, because unless he knows us thoroughly, he cannot advise us on our vocation…Keep in mind that the chief judge of your vocation is your confessor.
— St. Don Bosco

If penitents aren’t open to God’s grace, which pours forth through the priest’s consecrated hands in the sacrament of confession, then God can use the words of the priest to ignite a passion for change within them. Words inspired by the Holy Spirit—and spoken by the confessor to the repentant souls—can be very powerful. They might be the means by which God wishes to transform certain souls from being complacent into taking action for their salvation. What kind of salvation are people looking for? Do they only desire to just squeak by into purgatory—which the saints describe as a place with long years of incredible anguish, suffering, and punishment from their lackluster faith? Actually, lukewarm souls sadly don’t even make it to heaven or purgatory as they don’t have any real sorrow for their sins and pretend like they love God but really don’t. Our Lord in St. Faustina’s Diary instills the necessity of truly loving Him–having a hate for all sins and desiring to sin no more–and how painfully those who don’t inflict pain upon him “These [lukewarm] souls cause Me more suffering than any others.” In Revelation 3:15-16 says, “Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” We need to save souls. Are the people looking for purification (perfection) for a glorious, blissful ETERNITY in heaven? This must be the MAIN goal in one’s life. Let’s bring the faithful to heaven with the powerful help of the priest. Read the book Dignity and Duties of the Priest  by St. Alphonsus and The Book of Pastoral Rule by St. Gregory the Great, to bring further quality incite to the incredible role of the confessor for the salvation of souls.

To direct men seems to me to be the greatest of all sciences. –St. Gregory Nazianzen

ordinationThrough the sacrament of holy orders, absolutely all priests have been given the gift of providing spiritual guidance in the confessional, although some priests haven’t yet developed their potential to use the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help deliver encouraging salvific words to the penitents. To assist priests in finding their hidden potential we have provided some inspiration, as well as techniques that can easily be applied during confession. Click on the list below to find words of empowerment, which will help confessors inspire the actions of each penitent through their transforming words of mercy and truth.

Without holiness and learning, the priest puts both his soul and the souls of his penitents in grave danger. –St. Alphonsus

May no soul leave the confessional uninspired to change his ways. God wishes to reach each and every person through His magnificent priest. God’s rewards for your loving service to Him will be GREAT in heaven.

click on the titles to see great ideas on how to transform lives in reconciliation:
Keep it Short…
Respond with Love…
Guidance from Mortal Sin
Tell the Truth
Preach Mercy and Forgiveness
Avoid Rash Judgement
Ask Why?
Teach the 3 P’s
Always End with Forgiveness
Meaningful Penance
Absolve or Not?
Spiritual Direction
Moral Theology

How to Avoid Giving Wrong AdviceOne of the most memorable and transforming words of advice I received from my confessor was: “Once you realize you’re already full of God’s love, you won’t want anything else.” That advice was given to me for my sin of seeking approval from others. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It wasn’t long or complicated but just perfect for me and something I could actually remember. I confessed many other sins but the sin of seeking approval had been haunting me for a while, and I was simply at a loss at what more I could do to eradicate it. Those were the words delivered by the Holy Spirit and it meant a great deal to me. Words driven from the Holy Spirit are possible from every priest, and will transform lives.

The office of confessor, is of all offices, the most important and the most difficult.
–St. Francis de Sales

The confessor is a marvelous gift from God for the salvation of souls.
Words of enlightenment which pour out of the confessor can inspire the penitent to abolish their sinful ways.

  • Driven by the Holy Spirit, the confessor has endless potential through his words to inspire the people to change.
  • When the confessor constantly strives to save souls, the Holy Spirit can use him to bring the words of inspiration that can transform hearts and minds.

READ – How to Avoid Giving Wrong Advice
READ – Rash Judgements

* However, if anointing of the sick is given to an unconsciousness or unable to communicate person who has made at least an act of imperfect contrition (told God they were sorry for their sins: meaning if they had a chance to live another moment they would in fact be willing to suffer any pain rather than offend God again because they fear from suffering in Hell because of their sins) prior to their loss of conscious or communication then their mortal sins are forgiven by the power God sends through the priest’s hands during the sacrament.

Do you know?

The fall in church attendance, vocations, etc. is from sin. Eradicate the sin….through reconciliation…awaken the people.