Concealment of sins in the Sacrament of Confession due to a false shame before the priest is also a consequence of strong pride and in some sense is a kind of delusion, because the damage to the soul due to the sin is significantly enhanced, but the man does not notice it thinking that it is better to continue to conceal the sin. Also sometimes it happens with not very significant sins, some sort of mental sin, for example, blasphemous thoughts. Blasphemous thoughts are mental blasphemy, bad words, thoughts of unbelief against God, the Mother of God, Angels, Saints, and other people. These thoughts, as the Fathers say, arise from strong pride and conviction of people. "And no other thought is as difficult to admit in confession, which is why so many are dogged by it all their days. In fact nothing gives demons and evil thoughts such power over us as to nourish them and hide them in our hearts unconfessed." (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Word 23).
This section describes how people with the Saints’ help were released from concealment and what are the consequences of the concealment of sins both during the person’s life and after death.
Letters of St. Ambrose of Optina. Letter 390.
You write about your brother who suffers from mental illness of suspicion, as if the secret police is chasing him everywhere and through everyone, so he suspects evil intents and connections with the secret police in the people closest to him. This mental disease had occurred to him due to the fact that he was ashamed, or simply did not want to repent of his childhood sins considering them unimportant. But conscience – the incorruptible judge – reminded him with its reproaches of the need to repent, suggesting that he is wrong and is to blame; but he, instead of repenting, turned the reproaches of the conscience into a police pursuit. When this was joined by unbelief and long refusal of the communion of the Holy Mysteries, it further strengthened his mental illness of unfounded suspicion.
You are afraid that he will become completely mad... But it is the lightest evil and misery. In this case, at least, his life would be saved, if he is in the insane institution, and a man in madness is no longer responsible for what he does in this condition. Of course, he shall bear responsibility for the previous deeds.
It will be good, if you could manage to bring your brother to the monastery of St. Sergius and to serve with him a prayer service in the caves before the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Chernigov, having arranged beforehand a good confessor for your brother. After the prayer before this icon, the mentally damaged people came to the common sense and confessed well and were healed through it.
Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). "The good part." From the conversation about self-pity and overconfidence.
Once I read the book of Archbishop Anthony (Golynsky-Mihailovsky) about the Jesus prayer. This interesting book is supplemented with short memories about the author. He suffered a great hardship, for many years he was in jail, he had several sentences in prison camps, but at the same time he was an ascetic: first, he prayed a lot with Jesus prayer; secondly, every day he read daily liturgical round, no matter what the circumstances were, even on the road. And he forced his spiritual children to do the same, and that is besides praying by beads. He died very hard, and he explained the cause of it. One day, a woman came to him and confessed her sin and the sin of her confessor. She sinned with her spiritual father, who was then nearly seventy years old! And before that, he was known as a famous ascetic and faster. He did not dare to confess this, and already dying, asked her to repent for him. This woman begged Bishop Anthony so much, that he could not resist and took this sin over him, and that’s why he died so hard. Just imagine, if a seventy-year-old person after the ascetic life fell into fornication, why thirty-year-old guys think that they are safe?! It is not known how the rest of the life will come about and what will happen next, what temptations and trials he will meet. Today, the devil does not touch you, because, may be, you do not touch him, but tomorrow you pray a little, and this may cause battle – you will want to do the same as Pygmalion. So you should not go into premature excessive calm and think that everything is in order. Overconfidence makes man think that if he lives in security and relatively quiet for some time, by the grace of God, so it always will be like this. In fact, this conclusion is totally groundless.
Letters of elder John (Krestiankin).
Dear Father P.!
In Pochaev, they made you an accurate diagnosis of your disease. And the reason is clear for you. God is not mocked.
It is absolutely necessary for you to confess to your ruling bishop, because the sins mentioned by you, starting from concealing them before the ordination, are a canonical impediment for your service before the altar. You have to choose, because if you do not confess to the bishop and continue the service, the consequences could be dreadful in relation to both your illness and your future fate. A priest can not solve your problem, he has no such power.
May God give you wisdom and help you realize that you are in the toils of dark forces.
Servant of God S.!
The issue of becoming a priest is usually finally decided on the confession. After all, there are some sins that forever impede the person, who committed them, the service before the God’s altar.
And I do not know you, so I cannot decide such an important issue. But I know some priests who did not disclose their background to the bishop before the ordination and, being ordained, began to fall into such states that they understood that they can not serve.
So solve your issue with the confessor, but first – with your conscience.
From the book "Conversations with Archimandrite Ephraim, the hegumen of Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos".
Secretiveness is another thing you should pay attention to. This is the greatest weapon of the devil. A secretive monk, who has secret thoughts and sins, may go as far as to schizophrenia. Do not conceal anything! It is especially important for naturally shy people to remember it. The monk has to overcome himself and this very shyness. This would mean that he completely gave all his heart to God. And if the person does not disembosom himself, even due to his shyness, the devil will beat him like an octopus.
From the memoirs about the venerable Elder Simeon (Zhelnin).
The Father told: "When I was a deacon, I had a great temptation in a dream, and I was so embarrassed that I could not tell this to my confessor. So all the clergy started to partake of the Holy Mysteries during the Liturgy and I walked away and could not receive Communion. All were taking Communion and asking: "Where is Vassian, why did not he take Communion?" Then, Archimandrite Methodius began to call me before the whole altar: "Why do you cover up the enemy?! Repent, or he will do you more the next time". And I had to repent publicly, instead of repenting to one confessor. I felt better after Communion".
The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.
I have received your letter dated 30 September. You write about yourself in this way: "For more than two years I have been ill with an unknown illness which doctors can not understand. The disease is such that I have more fear, especially reciting the Divine Liturgy, and also the constant melancholy, and pensiveness, and anguish. Though it is inconvenient to resolve this kind of confusion and disease without seeing you, but considering melancholy and fear you experience, I think that the beginning and the first cause of your disease were your childhood sins that probably you could not confess properly or were ashamed to do it; but you should had done it especially before your deacon ordination. The second cause may be that you haven’t always kept your conscience clear combining deacon ministry with married life, because a person ordained into this service is required a particular keeping of conscience, which is not infrequently prevented by either excessive use of strong drinks or intemperance with respect to irritation and anger. Each of these weaknesses alone has the power to bring great harm to the soul, especially if they are combined at the same time.
The same condition and state happens when a man despite his weaknesses and failures does not humble himself, but becomes arrogant and abases others. I think that in your sickness, first of all, you need to strive for release from aggravating anguish and fear. And you can achieve this, first, if you can find in your region such a confessor to whom with full faith and perfect sincerity you could humbly confess everything that lied heavy on your conscience from six years to this day; and secondly - if you firmly decide not to return to such actions that cause fear and anguish, as the Lord Himself said in the Gospel to the sinner, “go, and sin no more” (Jn 8: 11). If you do so and from now on you are determined to keep yourself and your conscience, then we can hope that you will not only get rid of the grief and fear aggravating you, but you can get such a relief in your bodily disease, with God’s grace and help, that will be useful for you, by the will of Lord, All-good, All-knowing, Almighty and having the providence of salvation for everyone.
Sts. Barsanuphious and John the Prophet. "Guidance Toward Spiritual Life".
A certain brother is appointed the abbot. He asks the Elder how to manage the monastery.
When he heard this, he glorified God and said to the Old Man: "Father, since I am a beginner and know nothing, what do you command me to say to the brothers?"
Tell them the following: "The Lord Jesus Christ, who cares for you, said: 'I shall not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you'. Pay attention to yourselves with all humility and love toward God, and he shall bless you and become your protection and direction."
Also tell them the following: "Let no one conceal any thought, because the joy of the [evil] spirits is that we conceal our thoughts in order that they might destroy our soul".
If any of the brothers reveals his thoughts to you, say the following within yourself: "Lord, everything that you have for the salvation of the soul, grant it to me in order that I may speak to the brother, and in order that I may speak your word rather than my own." Then say whatever comes to you, believing within yourself that this is not your own word; for it is written: "Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God."
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, "Who sees us?" or "Who knows us?"
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Elder Ephraim of Philotheou. "My life with elder Joseph".
(translated from Russian)
The Elder [Joseph the Hesychast] told us: "Have you seen the monk, who fell into sin, who became a deserter? It happened to him because he concealed his thoughts. He did not disclose them - and they killed him, like the snakes kill. Newly hatched little snakes are small, but if you do not drive them away, they will grow and become poisonous. One of them will bite you, and you will die. Have you seen a man in delusion? It happened to him because of the thoughts."
The Elder told us about some people who concealed their thoughts and suffered from that, fell into delusion. Such people quite often committed suicide because they believed that an Angel appeared to them, whereas it was a demon. The delusion was in the thought: "Do not tell that to the Elder".
Blessed John Moschus. "The Spiritual Meadow".
The life of abbot Isaac, and how a demon also appeared to him in the shape of a young man.
There is a mountain about six miles distant from Lycos, a city of the Thebaid, where some of the monks live in caves, others in cells. We went there and met abba Isaac, a Theban, who told us the following:
Fifty years ago I was making a mosquito net when I made a mistake in my work and I could not find out where it was, let alone repair it. I spent the whole day utterly defeated, unable to discover what I had done wrong. I was almost in despair, when I saw a young man come in through the window.
"You've made a mistake," he said, "but give me your work and I will put it right."
"Get out," I said. "You'll not get me to do that."
"But you will be damned if you do your work badly"
"No call for you to worry about that."
"But I am just sorry for you because your work is lost."
"Both you and he who sent you have come here with evil intent."
"No, it is you have drawn me here, and you are mine."
"What do you mean?
"For the last three Sundays you have communicated while harbouring uncharitable thoughts towards your neighbour."
"I'm not lying. You are angry with him because he is so slow (propter lenticulam). And I am the one in charge of anger and the memory of insults. So, therefore, you are mine."
At this, I left my cell immediately, went to my brother, prostrated myself before him and begged his forgiveness, whereupon we were reconciled. When I returned to my cell I found that the demon had destroyed the mosquito net completely and also the rush mat on which I prayed, so envious of our charity had he become.
From the living of St. Ambrose of Optina.
Shortly before his death the elder Ambrose said to another monastery monk Paulinus: "For you have not disclosed some of your thoughts to me, God will allow you to suffer a temptation". That's what has happened. The monk Paulinus, having caught a cold during the procurement of firewood, all but died, and his miraculous cure attributed to the prayerful intercession of the elder Ambrose, who has already fallen asleep in the Lord by that time.
Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic Wisdom".
Heart prayer is not susceptible to delusion, unless one is passionate and already deluded. With heart prayer, as soon as the nous enters the heart, immediately its darkness is cleared and straightaway it becomes peaceful and calm. It rejoices, is sweetened, rests, and is cleansed. It rejoices and becomes like a small child free from passions. Bodily members which used to tempt him become peaceful and humble, just like the hand, the nose, and the rest of the members of the body.
Therefore, whoever wants to, let him taste this honey, and it will become a fountain of joy and happiness within him, unless one is cunning, hypocritical, envious, miserly, sensual, vainglorious, or in general passionate; if one wants to say the prayer while voluntarily remaining with his passions, unrepentant, incorrigible. Such a person obviously disdains the action of the prayer and the mercy of the Lord. The prayer helps everyone, but each person must struggle in accordance with his own strength. God gives His grace according to one’s intention. If anyone says the prayer without repenting, either the prayer will cease, or he will fall into delusion.
Women in particular make progress in the prayer more easily because of the self-denial and obedience they have to their spiritual guide. However, the faster they make progress, the more easily they fall into delusion, if they proceed thoughtlessly without caution.
It is not just a matter of saying the prayer, but it is also a matter of being attentive. You must be vigilant with your thoughts, masterfully controlling them. Otherwise, they will take control of you and in the end you will become the laughing-stock of the demons. I have never seen a soul make progress in the prayer without frankly confessing secret thoughts.
My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the Devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold on to them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices, the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your nous and heart.
Rufinus the Presbyter. "Living of Desert Fathers."
(translated from Russian)
We cannot pass over in silence the inhabitants of the desert adjoining the Porfenian sea and bordering the area of the city Diolk. There we saw one wonderful priest, named Piammon, who was notable for the absolute humility and meek indulgence. He was given the grace of revelation. Once bringing the Bloodless Sacrifice to the Lord, he saw an Angel of the Lord near the Altar: he was holding a book in which he wrote down the names of the monks who approached to the Holy Altar. The elder carefully noticed whose names the Angel missed. After the end of the liturgy, he summoned separately each one of the missed by the Angel and asked him whether he had some secretly committed sin in the conscience. At this confession, he revealed that each of them was guilty of a mortal sin ... Then he persuaded them to bring repentance, and casting himself down before the Lord along with them, prayed with tears day and night, as if he was involved in their sins. And he was in repentance and tears until he saw the Angel again, standing before the Altar and writing down the names of those who were taking the Holy Mysteries. Having written down the names of everyone, the Angel even started to call each one by name, inviting to come to the Altar for reconciliation with God. And the elder, seeing this, understood that their repentance was accepted and happily admitted everyone to the Altar.
From the Living of Saint Matrona of Moscow.
Around this same time, Matrona, who was already known throughout the region and whose requests were taken as blessings, asked that a certain icon of the Mother of God be painted for the village Church of the Dormition. This came about one day when the blind girl asked her mother to tell the priest that on a certain shelf in his library lay a book with a picture of the icon, “In Search of the Lost.” The surprised priest found the picture of the icon just as she had described it. When she heard this, Matrona exclaimed, “Mama, I will have such an icon painted.” Her mother was pensive. How could they ever pay for this? Some time later, Matrona again said to her mother, “Mama, I’m dreaming and dreaming about this icon ‘In Search of the Lost.’ The Mother of God is asking to come to our church.” At Matrona’s request local village women began collecting money. Among those who contributed was one man who gave a ruble reluctantly and his brother who gave one small kopeck in fun. When they brought the money to Matrona, she spilled it out and, picking out the very same ruble and kopeck, told her mother, “Mama, give it back, it’s spoiling all the money for me…”
When the necessary amount had been collected, they ordered the icon from an artist from the village of Epiphania. Matrona asked if he was able to paint such an icon, and he replied that for him it was an ordinary commission. She then asked him to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. Later she asked again, “Do you know for sure that you will paint this icon?” The artist answered affirmatively and began his work. After some time, he told Matrona that nothing was coming of the painting. She replied: “Repent of your sins.” With her spiritual vision, she saw that there was one sin that he had not yet confessed. Astounded that she knew this, he returned to the priest, confessed, communed, and asked Matrona’s forgiveness. She replied, “Go. Now you will paint the icon of the Heavenly Queen.” The icon was painted about 1915 and, after the revolution, Matrona kept it with her throughout her life. It is now enshrined in Moscow at the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God in Taganskaya, near Matrona’s relics.
Saint Barsanuphius of Optina.
Do you know the Devil's tactics? You really need to know it. When the Devil knows that some man has a sin more or less serious, he tries to prevent him from repentance. To this end, he belittles the severity of the sin in any way, suggesting the following thoughts: "It does not matter, God will forgive this to you" - and so on. And the demon even tries to make a man forget about this sin. But when this man manages to confess the sin to his spiritual father in the confession, the Devil in every way increases the severity of sin, suggesting that this sin is so great that God will never forgive it. And he tries to bring a person into depression and despair. You see how cunning the enemy is. He knows that the sins are washed away in the confession, and therefore he does not admit people to confession, and if a man confesses, the enemy embarrasses him in every way.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. "Orthodox psychotherapy."
An effective method of getting rid of thoughts is to confess them to an experienced spiritual father. St. John Cassian says that "just as a snake which is brought from its dark hole into the light makes every effort to escape and hide itself, so the malicious thoughts that a person brings out into the open by sincere confession seek to depart from him" (487). Nothing so harms a monk and brings such joy to the demons as hiding his thoughts from his spiritual father (488). In this way his whole spiritual life is twisted and he becomes a plaything in the hands of the devil, who can do what he likes with him. Therefore St. John Cassian teaches that nothing leads so surely to salvation as confessing our private thoughts to the most discriminating of the fathers and being guided by them rather than by our own thoughts and judgement (489). "He who conceals his thoughts remains unhealed" (490). Therefore we must confess the persistent thought, bring it to our spiritual father who has responsibility for our salvation. "Any thought that tarries in you and engages you in warfare, reveal to your Abba, and he, with God's help, will heal you" (491). When we speak of a persistent thought we mean one that does not go away in spite of our objection, scorn, and prayer, but continues to wage war against us, like the impassioned thought which is united with the passion.
Episode from the life of Saint Barsanuphius of Optina.
Here are the astounding memoirs about confession to the elder left by his spiritual daughter:
- We reached the skete, the Devil in every way distracted me and suggested to leave, but having crossed myself, I firmly entered the hut ... I made a sign of the cross before the icon of the Queen of Heaven and froze.
The Father entered, I was standing in the middle of his cell ... The Father came up to the Tikhvin icon of God’s Mother and sat ...
- Come closer.
I timidly approached him.
- Kneel down, my child ... It is accepted here that we sit and confessants stand on the knees near us because of humility.
I dropped down, not just kneeled... The Father took me by both shoulders, looked at me infinitely kindly, as no one has ever looked, and said:
- My dear child, my sweet child, my precious child! Are you twenty-six?
- Yes, Father.
- You are twenty-six, how many years were you fourteen years ago?
I thought a moment and answered:
- True, and since that year you have begun concealing sins at the confession.
Bishop Palladius. "The Lausiac History".
Chapter XVIII. Macarius of Alexandria
Once I visited this holy Macarius and found a village priest lying just outside his cell, whose head was all eaten away by the disease called cancer, and the actual bone appeared on the crown of his head. He had come to be healed and Macarius would not grant him an interview. So I besought him: "I pray you, pity him and give him his answer." And he said to me: "He does not deserve to be healed, for it has been sent him as a punishment. But if you want him to be healed, persuade him to give up taking services. For he was taking services, though living in fornication, and for this reason he is being punished and God is healing his soul." So when I said this to the afflicted man he consented, and swore that he would no longer exercise his priesthood. Then he received him and said: "Do you believe that God is?" He said to him: "Yes." "Were you able to mock God?" "No," he answered. He said: "If you recognize your sin and the chastening of God, on account of which you suffered this, reform yourself henceforward." So he confessed his fault and gave a promise that he would sin no more nor take the service, but embrace the position of a layman. Then he laid his hands on him and in a few days he was cured and the hair grew and he went away healed.
The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.
You are bothered with inappropriate fleshly lusts. When you should have a spiritual benefit, the Devil tries to tempt you. Despise it, because such suggestion from the enemy is an absurdity of absurdities. You write that it seems to you that someone is standing beside you during this struggle. Such things happen when a person either forgot some important sin at the confession, or did not manage to confess something as it should.
Pray to the Heavenly Queen and Guardian Angel asking their help to recall and confess sins. Then, the present dream will pass. Also you should be humble before God and men, considering yourself the worst of people.
I find it inappropriate for you to go to Moscow for the medical treatment because of the fleshly lusts. It will intensify the struggle ... It is better to suffer pain from the disease to cleanse your sins. It is more correct.
Hegumen Mark (Lozinski). "Patericon of the preacher".
A novice got rid of the thoughts of blasphemy and disbelief only after a confession to the elder.
The former abbot of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, archimandrite Kronid, has told about himself the following: "In the Lavra, I was taken under the spiritual guidance of the elder, father Nicodemus, a man simple in heart but wise in his soul, very kind, and I made friends with him spiritually. Such a life, apparently, was not much liked by the enemy of our salvation. He attacked me with such a terrible rage, he confused me with thoughts of blasphemy against God and unbelief that my mind was almost clouded. Then the Lent of 1878 began. In the Clean Monday I went to matins in the refectory church, rejoicing that the Lord has vouchsafed me to live on till these great days and to fast in repentance. Here I fixed my gaze on the local icon of the Savior in the prayer to Him for help in the salvation. Suddenly, a thought of unbelief and blasphemy against Christ the Savior as a lightning flashed in my mind. That made me so scared that I was like deadened. At the same time I felt like a spark of the hellfire ran all over my body, and my heart was filled with deadly boredom. Then, fearing and trembling, I turned my gaze to the icon of the Mother of God, praying to protect me from the terrible and pernicious thoughts. But to my horror, I noticed that the thoughts of blasphemy against God and against the Mother of God rose in me even stronger. Then I turned to Saint Sergius in the prayer. But a bad mental abuse with terrible power fell upon him too. Then the words of abuse, unbelief and blasphemy poured out in my mind in an irresistible flow on all holy and, terrible to say, even on the Holy of Holies, that is, the Holy Mysteries. Because of excruciating anguish I deadened and went out of my mind with worry. My emotional torment was so great that my face changed completely in five days. Archimandrite Leonid once drew attention to me and asked, "Constantine! What’s wrong with you? I do not recognize you!” I answered him that I was feeling unwell. Friday came, but the thoughts still continued. I was going to confess to my spiritual father, and the thoughts told me: "Will you really tell your confessor all harmful, blasphemous thoughts?" I took the mental advice and said nothing about the thoughts at the confession. But coming out from the cell of the confessor I felt such heavy anguish that I could not restrain my sobs because of the terrible inner commotion and crying like a child I fell on the sofa which stood near the door. The confessor was confused and asked me: "Kostya, what's wrong?" I told him: "Father! I am ruined! "-" How can you be ruined? "Then I told him my mental thoughts tormenting me all week from the Clean Monday. Listening to me, the spiritual father asked, "Do you console yourself with these thoughts?" I told him: "I do not console myself, farther, but I suffer indescribably." Then the confessor led me to the cross and the Gospel again, read the prayer of absolution anew and dismissed me. After that, my heart was so easy that I did not go from the confessor but flew on wings of joy. All scary thoughts vanished, and I, a sinner, could proceed calmly to the Holy Chalice. " (Trinity monastery letters from the spiritual meadow. P. 43.)
The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.
In one letter you mentioned that you had a discussion with NN about relics and some bodies of the sinners, not having rotten after death. Indeed, now at Athos, there are no relics, as they say, by the following circumstance.
One pious elder lived there in stillness and solitude and always taught his disciple to keep still and solitary life. Upon the death of the elder in a year, according to the custom of Athos, monks dug up the grave and found the head of the elder, exuding fragrant and healing myrrh. Many people came to worship this head and anointed themselves with the healing myrrh, and so disturbed the solitude of the disciple. Therefore he said reproachfully to the deceased elder: "Father, in your lifetime you always schooled me to stillness and solitude, but after your death you break it."
After these words, fragrant and healing myrrh dried up, and there was only plain bone, and people stopped coming to worship it. And they said that thereafter monks found in the graves just bones, yellow, or white, or black ones, which helped them to distinguish states of the deceased souls; or they found bodies, non-decomposed and dark.
All brethren prayed about such souls for three years, each year digging up the grave and asking local bishops to read the prayer of absolution. Some of the bodies remain non-decomposed after three years. So they are left as they are.
Metropolitan Anthony (Krapovitsky). "Confession".
8. Fear of Admitting a Sin.
Several spiritual fathers in monasteries have disclosed to me that God has helped them obtain from penitents the admission of sins which they could not bring themselves to confess at previous confessions over the course of ten or twenty years. This had tormented them for their whole lives and they already considered themselves doomed for eternity, knowing that the Church says, “If thou hidest anything from me, thou hast a greater sin; take heed therefore, lest, having come to a physician, thou depart unhealed.” These sins may be very shameful and impure, unnatural sins against the seventh commandment, such as incest, bestiality or corruption of children; all these happen extremely often, and sometimes with people who are respected by those around them. On the other hand, they may be criminal offences: murder, infanticide, theft, robbery, attempted poisoning, malicious slander out of jealousy or envy, inspiring hatred against one’s neighbor, incitement of others against the Church and faith, and so on. If the priest directly poses a question about such a sin, the penitent will probably not deny it, but he cannot bring himself to tell of his offence voluntarily.
However, it is impossible to question each person about such abominable sins. After finishing the usual questions, you should ask in a quiet, gentle voice, “Perhaps there is some sin which you are ashamed to confess? Perhaps there is something which you could not resolve to say about your sins at earlier confessions, or forgot, and then remembered and did not dare to tell the priest?” It is extremely possible that the parishioner will answer affirmatively, but will still hesitate to say what exactly it was.