By Fr. Sean McDermott
Recently, I updated our page for Confession Resources on the website and added six pdf's of very good books on Confession. Most of us already have Manual for Confessors by Francis Belton and William Webb's The Cure of Souls, so I wanted to post some things I have acquired over the years that are harder to find and yet substantial. We will be posting some highlights from these books in the upcoming weeks, and I hope you enjoy some of these excellent resources.
Exercises in the Art of Hearing Confessions by R. Somerset Ward
This selection comes from Ward's larger worked titled, A Guide for Spiritual Directors. It is one of the most helpful pieces I have ever read for confessors. Unique to this book, Ward gives actual exercises to work through, and he explains what should be done in hard cases. No other book has this sort of practical application, and I am quite grateful for it. You can find a pdf here.
The Sacrament of Penance by G. Kendal Dovey
Probably the best succinct book on the topic. Under 100 small pages and covers many different topics such as the conscience, disposition of the confessor, scrupulosity and habitual sin, and defamation. Dovey does a good job giving succinct examples which help the reader understand exactly what he is trying to get across. The style is plain and matter of fact. You can find a pdf here.
The Practice of Confession: Why, What, and How by Sibyl Harton
Harton’s short book is a concise primer of Confession. This would be a great book to start understanding the Sacrament or a book to hand out to parishioners interested in learning a little more about Confession. You can find a pdf here.
Penitence and Forgiveness by Wilfred L. Knox, F.B.A., D.D.
Another short book that would be helpful for those trying to understand the need for Confession. Knox builds his case from very general suppositions in order to place Confession within a proper Christian context. It is helpful because Knox shows how the Sacrament helps us towards the Christian ideal, which is not a good, moral life but "a complete surrender of the whole personality of God, and, for His sake, to the love and service of our neighbor, the latter word being interpreted in that wildest sense which it receives in the parable of the Good Samaritan” (8). You can find a pdf here.
A Good Conscience and a Better Confession by C.P. Hankey
This short pamphlet explores the nature of conscience and the role it plays in Confession. In particular, Hankey shows how better to examine our consciences in order to make a better Confession. You can find a pdf here.
Methods of Self-Examination by a Group of Priests.
This anonymous tract is a very helpful resource both for Penitents and Confessors. It has twelve different ways to practice examination, laid out in helpful and simple outlines. For example, the tract shows how to practice self-examination according to the Ten Commandments, the Cardinal Virtues, and the Beatitudes just to name a few. You can find a pdf here.