Pope Francis made headlines when, during Lent, he stunned onlookers by received confession publicly at St. Peter’s Basilica before hearing the confession from the faithful. However, as radically different many find this pope, his theology and practice is consistent with Catholic teaching post-Vatican II. A new book from Father Paul Farren explores the practice, purpose and meaning behind the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In Freedom and Forgiveness: A Fresh Look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Farren examines the history of the sacrament and the ways it brings us into a deeper experience of God. Confession is somewhat daunting for many of us; yet Farren argues, “Our understanding of the sacrament reveals our image of God. If our image of God is one of an uncompromising judge, then the sacrament can fill us with dread. (1)” Instead of coming to confession to avoid judgement and hellfire, Farren paints a picture of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which has a loving God behind it who longs for a restored relationship with His children.
In Farren’s short book he explores how confession brings us into the realm of freedom and forgiveness, reveals the nature of God and of ourselves, and produces in us a proper sorrow for our sins. Farren also give practical instruction for those who wish to enter deeper into the practice of Confession, both in its formal parish celebration and in preparation for it.
This is a Catholic book which I read as a non-Catholic Christian. While my ecclesiastical membership is once removed from Rome, I think that this is one area we (protestants) can stand to learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters: Confession is good for the Soul. Bonhoeffer, the German Martyr, scholar and pastor discussed the importance of hearing words of absolution from another in his book Life Together. However many of us save confession for private prayers and yet are surprised when our religious experience becomes increasingly privatized.
I think Farren issues a challenge for all Christians, though he writes primarily to Catholics and grounds his reasoning in Church dogma. However what he tells us about God’s character and the experience of freedom and forgiveness is a word appropriate for us all, even if work is to be done on how to fit these wise words into our own contexts. This is a short book (about 85 pages) but it is full of practical insights worth turning over. I recommend this book for all Christians longing for a greater experience of freedom from sin and a deeper relationship with God. I give this book four stars.
Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.