Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness

by Jim Forest; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books; 174 pp, $15ISBN 1570753865

Once a defining feature of Christian life, the practice of confession was abandoned by many people in the last few decades of the twentieth century, but now is coming back to life with the recognition that, without an acknowledgment of sin and the longing for forgiveness and reconciliation, the Gospel makes little sense. In Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness, Jim Forest offers a moving and helpful reappraisal of this neglected sacrament, drawing on history, scripture, the lives of the saints and a wealth of personal stories.

“The best single book I have seen on a sacrament which is widely misunderstood. In this accessible and very helpful book, Forest places the sacrament of reconciliation solidly at the center of Christian tradition. I can imagine no better introduction.”

]- Fr. John Garvey
author of Orthodoxy for the Non-Orthodox

“The mysteries of repentance, confession and forgiveness are at the core of Christianity. Jim Forest retrieves these powers for us at a time when confession and forgiveness are as necessary as air and water are for humankind to survive. Confession is a treasure to mine and practice.”

— Megan McKenna
author of Prophets

Jim Forest opens his new book with the following tale. It seems that a young priest in the feel-good 1970s was so taken with the latest bestseller I’m Okay, You’re Okay that he gave it a rave review in one of his sermons. Afterwards, an old parishioner acknowledged that the book was probably a good one, but added this: “I kept thinking of Christ on the Cross saying to those who were watching him die, ‘If everybody’s okay, what in blazes am I doing up here?'”

This wonderful story sets the stage for Forest’s wide-ranging reflections on confession. He isn’t content merely to examine confession as a sacrament. Instead, he correctly sees confession as a magnet that pulls together such topics as human nature, sin, individual integrity, community, and spiritual wholeness. Confession is more than just whispering a few faults into a priest’s ear. It’s an opportunity for renewal and rebirth, because one can only begin to heal if one first acknowledges that something’s broken. Defiant refusal to acknowledge individual guilt is bad enough; psycho-babbled insousiance is worse. Jim Forest does an especially good job of persuading us of the importance of honestly facing ourselves and God.

Along the way, he gives a short history of confession, reflects on several scriptural stories in which confession is illuminated (my favorite is his discussion of Mark’s account of the paralytic who was healed), includes a discussion of Dostoevsky on the need for reconciliation (to my mind, a gem-like essay in its own right), discusses some concrete tips for preparing for confession or self-examen and selecting a confessor, and closes with an interesting chapter of reflections on confession from clergy and laypeople. All in all, a remarkable book.

— Kerry Walters, on the web site

Here are a few chapters from Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness:

Confession: Doorway to Forgivness is published by Orbis Books.

Orbis Books
Maryknoll, NY 10545

free phone for book orders: 1-800-258-5838

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