Doubleday 2012 (New York – London – Toronto – Sydney – Auckland)
From Czech original "Noc zpovědníka" (NLN 2005) transl.by Gerald Turner
In these sixteen essays the author brings to bear his many years of experience as a confessor in examining the most pressing problems of our times as well as changes in the modern experience of religion. With humor and compassion he explores the many ways in which crises, both personal and societal, can act as catalysts for deeper change, especially for those standing on the border between faith and doubt. The essays include philosophical meditations about paradoxical Biblical teachings and psychological observations from his work, in which he is always trying to patiently and attentively listen, understand, encourage and support, and to lead people to consider whether they might not be hiding something fundamental from their own selves.
From the introduction:
“The books that I have written here in the summertime solitude of a forest hermitage in the Rhineland are each of a different genre but they all have something in common: it has always been my intention to share experience from different areas of my activity and thereby also, from another viewpoint, to help diagnose the present-day climate— “to read the signs of the times.” On this occasion, as the title of the book implies, I wish to share my experience as a confessor. /…/ What I would like to share is how the present period— this world and its extrinsic and intrinsic aspects— is viewed by someone who is accustomed to listening to others as they acknowledge their faults and shortcomings, as they confide their conflicts, weaknesses, and doubts, but also their longing for forgiveness, reconciliation, and inner healing— for a fresh start. For many years of my service as a priest, more than a quarter of a century, I have been regularly available for several hours, at least once a week, to people who come to the sacrament of reconciliation, or, because many of them are not baptized or non-practicing Catholics, for a ‘spiritual chat.’ I have thus lent an ear to several thousand people. It is likely that some of them confided to me things they had never spoken about even with their nearest and dearest. I realize that this experience has shaped my perception of the world maybe more than my years of study, my professional activity, or my travels around the seven continents of our planet. It has been my lot to have worked in a number of occupations. Every profession involves seeing the world from a different viewpoint. Surgeons, painters, judges, journalists, businesspeople, or contemplative monks, all view the world with a different focus and from a particular perspective. Confessors, too, have their own way of viewing the world and perceiving reality. /…/ Despite the uniqueness of individual human stories, after years of practice as a confessor one discovers certain recurrent themes. And that is the second aspect of the confessor’s experience to which this book seeks to provide a testimony. Through the multitude of individual confessions, which are protected, as has been said, by the seal of absolute discretion, the confessor comes into contact with something that is more general and common to all, something that lies beneath the surface of individual lives and belongs to a kind of ‘hidden face of the times,’ to their ‘inner tuning.’”