A Penitent’s Rash Judgment

One day a man went to confession to St. Louis Bertrand, an inmate of the Dominican monastery at Valencia in Spain, and accused himself of many grave offenses. Each time that he mentioned a mortal sin he gave a sharp glance at his confessor, to see if he betrayed any astonishment. The saint, however, remained perfectly calm and unmoved; the expression of his countenance did not alter even in the least. When the penitent had finished his confession, he added: “I have still one sin more to confess which I have committed since I entered the confessional; it is that of rash and uncharitable judgment in regard to your Reverence. Because you retained your composure, and your countenance did not exhibit the slightest sign of surprise at what I said, I suspected that you had yourself been guilty of similar offenses to those I confessed.”

The saint answered him thus: “My dear son in Christ Jesus, I can assure you that I never committed a single one of the sins which you confessed. It is true that I listened with perfect composure to the statement of your transgressions, but this was not because I felt no horror at your sins, but because I felt joy at your repentance. I was grieved that you should have offended against almighty God so deeply, but I rejoiced with the holy angels in heaven at your penitent dispositions; I rejoiced because I perceived from your sincere confession of sin, that you are returning to your heavenly Father with the sentiments of the prodigal son.” This rejoinder on the part of the saint touched the sinner so deeply that he burst into tears.

Text from Francis Spirago, Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism (New York: Benziger, 1904).

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