“Your ministry, dear friends and Confessors, doesn’t make noise but yes miracles,” wrote Cardinal Mauro Piacenza on December 3, 2017, in a letter to all confessors. “No one perceives, but God sees and this is what matters.”
The Cardinal is Major Penitentiary and Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. He reminded those who hear confessions:
“With the Sacrament of Penance, not only do you efface sins, but you must place penitents on the path of sanctity, exercising over them, in an appropriate way, a true teaching, a ministry of guidance and accompaniment.”
The Cardinal’s Letter
Dear and Venerable Brothers in the Priesthood,
Coming to the end of this Liturgical Year, the wisdom of the Church, with which God, immutable and eternal, “marks the rhythms of the world, the days, the centuries and time,” has led us to confess and celebrate the Royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ; a royalty through which Christ extends His salvific dominion over the universe and over history, is present in the world through the Church, His Body and, seated at the right hand of the Father, He will judge each one according to his deeds.
With the First Sunday of Advent, we are led to the New Year, to contemplate the central and original act – we can affirm the essence – of the whole of Christianity: the coming of God among us. This coming enters in history at a very precise point and moment and, at the same time, embraces the whole way, prolonging through the centuries the mystery of the Church, to finally open the whole of Creation to the day of its glorious Advent.
Thus the beginning and end of the Liturgical Year, the beginning and consummation of salvation really touch one another – they almost fuse – and, while we advance toward the Bethlehem manger, we prepare our heart for the coming of the God-Man, who “comes” continually in the time of the Church, to free us with His mercy, and who will come at the end of time, in the splendour of the truth, to judge men according to their operative faith in charity.
This “Last Judgment” seems increasingly foreign to a contemporary culture dominated by the “dictatorship of the instant” and ever less available, if not openly hostile, to the transcendent. And yet, we, Confessors, are privileged witnesses of how that Last Judgment comes, in reality, admirably anticipated every day, for the salvation of all men, through the Sacrament of Mercy.
In the sacramental encounter with the penitent, Christ, in virtue of His Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection, makes Himself companion of each man; submerges Himself in the depths of sin and defeats it again with the power of His Resurrection. In this sweet encounter of mercy, the penitent recognizes in the Confessor’s consecrated humanity, the presence of the mystery; more than that, he sees this humanity totally defined by Christ, searching safely for the Confessor, although not knowing him personally; the penitent also recognizes himself culpable of the Lord’s Cross, because of his sins, which he confesses and hands over at the foot of that cross; in short, he invokes the Blood of Christ the Redeemer, so that it renews the Baptismal Grace in him, making him a “new creature.”
What an immense Grace, for one who exercises with fidelity the ministry of Reconciliation, of being able to offer himself to the God-Man for the salvation of each brother, bending down tenderly on human poverty, reaching that periphery of sin in which only One has the strength to enter, and seeing each one raised from spiritual indigence and immediately enriched by that that we have as most precious in Christianity: Christ Himself!
I feel the duty to express special gratitude to the Penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas in the city and I extend it with pleasure to the dear brothers scattered around the world, for the ministry carried out faithfully and sometimes heroically at the service of the genuine good of the human person. The work of the Confessor is, effectively, a work that is really at the service of the very invoked “ecology of man” (FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, n. 155), of which it obtains an invisible but very effective benefit for the whole of human society.
Your ministry, dear friends and Confessors, doesn’t make noise but yes miracles. No one perceives, but God sees and this is what matters. On the basis of a joyful fidelity to personal prayer, to your “conversatio in caelis,” you will always obtain the necessary lights and generosity to expiate for yourselves and for your penitents; keep always a privileged role for the silent service and, humanly not always gratifying, of Confession. Moreover, I allow myself to remind that, with the Sacrament of Penance, not only do you efface sins, but you must place penitents on the path of sanctity, exercising over them, in an appropriate way, a true teaching, a ministry of guidance and accompaniment.
While the centenary of Fatima comes to its end, may the Immaculate Heart of the Most Holy Virgin Mary grant each and all to live a fruitful Advent journey, to come renewed to celebrate the Birth of Her Son.
I wish you and your penitents, in whose hearts you will make flower the happiness that the Lord is near, a Holy Christmas.
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza
Vatican, December 3, 2017
First Sunday of Advent
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester