The entire book? Hmmm…
Here is a selection from Wilhelm Löhe's pastoral theology, on the pastor's task of hearing confession. Wolf Knappe has translated the entire book which is in process of being edited. Löhe was a master father confessor and this passage is a remarkable window into his experience as such. We look forward to publishing the entire book.
56. The work of a confessor during private confession.
Whenever I stand in my place and wait for the penitents, and one after the other comes up in order to confess, and to receive not only absolution but also some kind of advice or another good word which can enlighten, strengthen or comfort, I know and feel it that my most serious hour of the week has come, and that I am facing my most difficult task. I stare at the door and wait for the one who is entering. As soon as I see him, the form of his soul is before me. Even before he starts talking, I already ask myself what I can say to him. I search and I study more than I would if I had opened books and had looked for wisdom there. Once the penitent starts talking and begins to reveal what is in his soul, I am totally ear. I am totally concentrated on not letting anything get lost or unobserved. But I cannot but search for what I have to say. I know that right now I am like a flower about to break out of the bud, and should give form and odor. By my salvation, I am dead serious, knowing that I may and should give, but not take. And this, my inner condition, repeats itself as each new penitent appears. I have to enter as many individual lives as there are penitents. In my opinion nothing is more difficult than this: Burdened with my own pastoral condition, I yet have to make other peoples' condition my own, so that I live in them and speak from them for their healing. I stand still, no foot, no hand is moving. But if this has gone on for several hours, I cannot do it any longer. I feel that it is getting to be too much for me. I am tired and would like to rest from these journeys of my soul into a strange life. For a while I would like to have nothing to do with anything except myself, no, not even with myself. I just want to rest, away from everything and everybody. I often listen and speak with increasing joy, I somehow feel that living water is flowing from me, that there is blessing from above and that I am serving in the house of my Lord. And yet, it doesn't work for any length of time. I know of no other labor like that of private confession that makes a person so tired, if not from misery, then at least from joy. Body and soul, nerves and thoughts feel their limits. Therefore I would advise anyone who is serious about hearing confession, not to overdo it, but divide it up and plan it. It is a great benefit for the penitents themselves if the confessor is wide awake and strong, to listen and to speak. But he cannot be that, if he has to listen to too many in a row and has to give advice. The last one will feel it, they receive nothing. Therefore, do not put too much trust in your strength. – Of course if everybody only uses a formula for confession, and you in turn also use only a formula so that when you lay on your hands and give absolution, this can also in the end become disgusting for you. But the labor I am talking about, the fatigue, which I have experienced, you will not get to know. One gets used to the work of hand and mouth.
Wilhelm Löhe, Evangelische Geistliche, translated by W. Knappe