In this excellent and informative booklet, Deacon Nick Donnelly applies his keenly analytical mind and theological training to the task of 'teasing out' the main strands of Pope Francis' teaching on the Sacrament of Confession, a sacrament that is very dear to Pope Francis' heart following a life-changing experience in the confessional as a young man.
In five succinct chapters, Deacon Nick analyses Pope Francis' approach to forgiveness, placing his teaching both in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and making reference often to the Pope's first feature-length book, an extended interview with the Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli, "The Name of God is Mercy".
Chapter 1 focuses on sin: how the sense of sin, personal and collective, has been lost, and the psychological obstacles that prevent Christians from wanting to receive the mercy of forgiveness: having corrupted hearts, or even feeling too unworthy for forgiveness to be a possibility. An emphasis is placed on striking a healthy balance between sin and mercy.
Chapter 2 focuses on forgiveness: there is a "primacy" of forgiveness, and the existence of the world depends upon it. Forgiveness must be granted to others (friends, familty members and enemies) as God forgives us; moreover, we must forgive others authentically and wholly, and not delay in harbouring grudges or grievances.
Chapter 3 looks at mercy: God's name is mercy, and God wishes to comfort us with a love that is maternal: the church is a merciful mother for us, and in His Incarnation, through his deeds and wounds, our Lord Jesus Christ shows us the face of his Father's mercy. The devotion to the five wounds of Christ is featured.
Chapter 4 looks at our woundedness in the human condition: though we all share in the consequences of the Original sin, we can call upon Our Lady to help us in our quest to resist our wounded nature; God never tires of forgiving us, no sin is beyond God's power to forgive, and our sins are entirely nullified.
The final Chapter offers a handy set of principles and advice from Pope Francis on how to make a good confession: it is meant to be a warm and deep encounter with God, not a mechanical process, like a visit to the dry cleaners. In particular, we may draw insights from Pope Francis' teaching on the importance of making a daily examination of conscience in order to lead a holier, happier and healthier life, and his catechesis on how we may "safeguard" our hearts looks worthy of further investigation.
Each Chapter contains a series of summary points for spiritual reflection, which lend themselves to personal prayer.
Deacon Nick's series of booklets on the catechesis of Pope Francis are especially beneficial for those (myself included) who, in spite of the Holy Father's plain-talking and accessible style, may have found aspects of his teaching during his pontificate thus far somewhat confusing, or perhaps, on occasion, a little erratic.