The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better.—Pope Francis.
The preacher's object is the spiritual good of his hearers. "Finis praedicanti sit", says St Francis de Sales; "ut vitam (justitiae) habeant homines, et abundantius habeant".—Blessed John Henry Newman.
- listen. Just listen.
- pray silently for the person by asking Jesus to embrace them and by asking Jesus to help you be a channel of His mercy.
- focus first on the person with whom we are speaking.
- understand who they are before we consider what they have done. Offer reassurance that God understands every human fear or hurt.
- let them tell us the things they have done which have kept or is keeping them from peace. Why are you holding on to ... ?
- propose an alternative to misery: offer hope in Jesus Christ.
- propose an alternative to isolation: offer community in the Church.
- do not try to solve a problem; offer to pray for the person. "Would you mind if I pray for you?"
- identify goodness in their lives. Draw attention to that goodness and offer it as a sign of hope.
- remind someone to live in the present. "Perhaps it's time to let go of whatever is keeping you from peace."
- offer consolation to the suffering. Reassure people that their suffering is known to God and that, when we embrace Him in prayer, especially in the Mass, He gives us His strength to help us enter more deeply into the suffering in order to understand it and overcome it. God shares our suffering. We encounter that most deeply when we pray the Mass.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.—St. Matthew 5:7.
Litmus test #2: By offering a spiritual or corporal work of mercy, you are not looking for something in return.