What is the Priest Thinking During My Confession?

“What are you thinking as I confess my sins?”

“Do you remember my sins?”

As a Roman Catholic priest, a number of nervous penitents have asked me those questions over the years.

I had similar questions when I was a young boy. I feared that if I ran into a priest later, he would look at me with eyes of judgment because of my sins.

During my ministry, I have found a better question:

“Who attracts the Heart of Christ?”

The Gospels provide us with some clear examples:

  • In Luke 18:9, we learn of the tax collector who recognized his unworthiness and stayed in the back of the temple beating his breast and asking for mercy as a sinner.
  • In Mark 5:25, we are introduced to a woman who was hemorrhaging for 12 years and just desired to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
  • In Mark 10:46, we hear the story of Bartimaeus who left behind his earthly securities and the groans of the crowd telling him to be quiet after he called out the name of Jesus for help.

These are the people that attract the Heart of Jesus – souls that humbly recognize the need for God. They are right where Jesus wants them to be when they courageously step  into the confessional.

I know what you are still thinking: “Father, that’s all well and good but do you remember the sins that I confess?”

I could, but I’m not there to remember. I’m there to forgive. I sit there so that people can experience the loving mercy of Jesus in their lives. Afterall, I also need God’s reconciling mercy in my own life through the reception of the same Sacrament. I am reminded of Jesus’ words – “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.”

When I hear your confession, I see a soul striving to be transformed by the tender embrace of Jesus. I see a soul that knows that Christ’s love is the most important thing in life, and it is reaching out for help.

I understand that it is not easy to step into the confessional. The humility of walking in is a gift in and of itself.

Remember – even if your last confession was yesterday or 40 years ago, Jesus is making you into a saint through this Sacrament. Living a holy life is not easy and the holier we become the more reliant upon Jesus we become, not less.

During the Sacrament of Penance, sometimes I can see the penitent and sometimes I can’t but the sighs of relief I hear when the burdens of sin are lifted always bring a smile to my face. Some of my most beautiful moments as a priest have taken place in that small confessional box.


Father Joshua West, LC
Board Member & Priest at Catholic World Mission | + posts

Father Joshua is the chaplain for NC State University and a priest with the Legionaries of Christ. Father Joshua resides in Raleigh, NC.