Friday 19 March 2021

The Secret of Confession: Including the Wonders of Confession - Father Paul O'Sullivan

The Secret of Confession: 
Including the Wonders of Confession
Father Paul O'Sullivan
ISBN 9780895554598
eISBN 9780895557865

This was the fifth volume from Father Paul that I have read, so far this year. I picked the first, The Wonders of the Mass, book up because it was promoted by TAN books in an email blast. They were promoting a bundle of books by Father Paul O'Sullivan. I know I have seen the covers before. After reading the first one I picked up a few more. And I realizes I should have grabbed the whole bundle. Each of the books I have read so far has been great. And particularly during lent this is an excellent read. The description of this book is:

“Probably the most intriguing and consoling book ever written about the Sacrament of Confession. This little gem contains a host of true stories about Confession, plus quotes from the Bible and the Saints of the early Church. Shows how even Protestants admire Confession, how it comes from Our Lord Himself, and gives renewed courage and youthfulness of spirit to the heart and soul. Says that by means of weekly Confession any sin can be conquered! Filled with warmth and love.”

And the chapters are:
Letter from Apostolic Nuncio, Lisbon 
Part I The Secret of Confession
      1. Was Confession Introduced by a Bishop? 
      2. Confession Was Instituted by Christ 
      3. What a Storm Would Have Arisen!
      4. What Protestants Think of Confession 
      5. Facts Are Stubborn Arguments 
      6. Why Does God Oblige Us to Confess Our Sins to a Man?
      7. “Come to Me, All You Who Labor and Are Heavily Burdened” 
      8. All Men Need a Friend 
      9. The Choice of a Confessor 
Part II The Wonders Of Confession 
      10. Cardinal Mermillod and the Actress 
      11. The Two Tribunals 
      12. Jesus and Sinners 
How to Go to Confession

I have said it before and I will state it again, two of the greatest things about Catholicism are daily communion and confession. Or the sacrament of reconciliation. For those not familiar as I was not:

“Fr. Paul Henry O'Sullivan, O.P., S.T.L., P.G., E.D.M., was born in Tralee, Ireland in 1871 and died in Lisbon, Portugal in 1958.”

Many of his books are available in English and some even in different editions. This one was first published in Portugal around 1936. It was retypset and reprinted in 1992 by TAN books, and then again in 2012 by the Saint Benedict Imprint. It received the Imprimatur on October 15th, 1936. The first words in the volume are a quote from page 74 of this same text, they are:

“The writer has conferred with many
experienced confessors,
and all, without exception,
agree that no vice is so gross,
so deep-rooted, so vicious
that it will not yield
to frequent Confession …”

In the letter of introduction, it is stated by P. Ciriaci Apostolic Nuncio that:

“I approve most heartily of your booklet on Confession. It supplies a need much felt, viz., a clear and practical explanation of the strength and consolation which Confession gives to the faithful. 

You rightly emphasize the fact that Confession does not only pardon sin but that it efficaciously helps the greatest sinners to sin no more; it gives the weakest strength and consoles the most abandoned, if only they confess frequently. 

You touch on points which are little understood, even by many Catholics, and your book will afford most interesting and useful reading, not only to Catholics, but also for those who do not be long to the Church.”

I have a great personal appreciation for confession. I am a better man than I was, and confession plays a big role in that. And I strive to be better each day. Confession was one of the key factors that drew me back to the Catholic church, while I was studying to become an Anglican Priest. Part I of the volume The Secret of Confession states that it includes:

Confession Was Instituted by Christ
What Protestants Think of Confession
Facts Are Stubborn Arguments
Why Does God Oblige Us to Confess?
All Men Need a Friend
The Choice of a Confessor

If you look at the list of chapters above for this section Most of these are titles of Chapters or they can be inferred. There are a few other chapters. A difference in translation or emphasis can be seen in comparing the chapter title:
Was Confession Introduced by a Bishop?
Confession Was Instituted by Christ
The book like others by Father Paul is powerful in that it is written in a clear, clean and crisp fashion. It is written from personal experience. And he includes enough stories to drive home his points. Without it being just a collection of his stories. One story he tells is about a young man who comes to him wanting to convert so he can marry a Catholic girl. Father Paul tells him that is not a good reason to become Catholic, he recounts:

““Evidently George was not prepared for categorical questions. He hesitated an instant, and then replied: ‘I wish to become a Catholic in order to go to Confession.’ 
“‘Now, my friend,’ I returned, ‘frankly that is an extraordinary reason. It is precisely because of Confession that many of your co-religionists fear to embrace the Catholic Faith. And you mean to tell me that you actually wish to become a Catholic in order to be able to confess?’ 
“George at once, with unmistakable sincerity, gave me his ideas on Confession in words so clear and convincing as would put to shame many Catholics. He had grasped the full significance of the Sacrament and clearly understood what peace, strength and consolation it must give if properly practiced.”

That is in part what this excellent volume does for us. It helps us seen again the importance, and centrality of confession to our faith and our growth. He draws quotes from the church fathers and even protestants on the importance of confession to the Catholic Identity. At one Point Father Paul informs us:

“A Swiss Protestant journalist received permission to visit the advanced posts of the Allied Forces and was given ample opportunity to speak with the soldiers. On his return home he published beautiful accounts of the chaplains. 

“Among the wonders of this awful war,” he wrote, “one of the most extraordinary is the appearance of a new kind of hero, the priest hero, of whom too much cannot be said. He is the admiration of everyone and a wonderful help to the men.””

Another story he shares is:

“The South African War. A Catholic soldier was brought in dying. He asked for a chaplain. The nearest priest was in an encampment 200 miles away. The fact came to the notice of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, who at once ordered a train to go and fetch the priest. On the return journey the small party was ambushed by the Boers and had to surrender. 

On hearing, however, that the British Commander-in-Chief had sent a train such a distance to fetch a priest for one dying trooper, they were astounded. Giving the salute, they wished the party God-speed.”

But the most important part of the book will be about the impact on your, your confession and your life. It is another fantastic read from the pen of Father Paul O’Sullivan. This book helps us realize the importance of Confession. It is another excellent volume that any Catholic would benefit from reading. I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Father Paul Henry O'Sullivan, O.P:
How to Avoid Purgatory
My Lord and My God, Or, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
Our Lady of Fatima
Read Me or Rue It
St. Patrick and the Irish
The Divine Office: How to Say it Devoutly, How to Make it a Pleasure
The Glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Story of a Great Man: Doctor Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
The Ten Commandments: For Real - For Now
What Ireland Owes to Portugal

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