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Go In Peace
The Art of Hearing Confessions
by Martin L. Smith, Julia Gatta
Publisher:Canterbury Press imprint of Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd
The sub-title of this wonderful volume points to an important consideration when it comes to hearing another's confession. It is a ministry that should be part of what every priest offers and yet it involves skills that few of us naturally have - in other words, it is an art that takes time to nurture. This sleek volume provides all that the prospective confessor needs to step forward into this role with confidence.
Divided into two sections, the first part of the book deals with the history, liturgy and practicalities of hearing confessions. In today's climate priests may be anxious about the confidentiality involved in hearing another confess their sins. On this the authors are clear, advocating counsel that requires the penitent to take the necessary action expected of them by society. When exercised well, the sacrament of confession leads the penitent towards the exercise of responsibility for their actions; it is not a substitute for it.
The closing section of the book comprises a dozen confessions from a variety of contexts presented in a verbatim style inclusive of the confessor's response. In some respects this section is the jewel of the book for here is modelled excellent practice for the new confessor to emulate.
Written for an American Episcopalian audience the phraseology at times feels alien. Yet overall this is a superb book for which I believe there is no contemporary UK equivalent. This is an excellent addition to every priest's reading list.
Reviewer: David Ford (29/05/13)