The beauty of Confession
Reverend Paul Bechter, the assistant priest for the Church of the Incarnation and Associate Chaplain at UD, was greatly influenced by St. Therese, the Little Flower. It was the summer after Fr. Bechter’s freshman year at UD, when he read her autobiography, “Story of a Soul” and was then inspired to consider a vocation to the priesthood.
“In there she’s describing what it feels like to know that God has a plan for you and that He’s calling you even if you’re not sure what that is. And to be so in love with God that you want to go wherever He calls you, no matter where it is, just because He calls.” He continued: “She’s still got this great desire to give even more of her life somehow to God. She’s trying to figure out what that is. So as she read First Corinthians 13 and it all clicks for her, and as I’m reading about that and it all clicks for me.”
Fr. Bechter then proceeded to pray to God, acknowledging that he felt the Lord’s calling and that he would accept that call. Fr. Bechter spent a couple more years discerning his vocation before deciding to attend seminary.
He said: “Finally I couldn’t deny it anymore, that I thought the Lord was inviting me to enter seminary just to come and see. At that point, I was really hoping that it was sort of a ‘let me go see, check this off my list of things’ I had in mind. But I kind of knew deep down that wasn’t true.”
Fr. Bechter spent two years at UD as a seminarian to finish his degree before traveling to Rome. He attended the North American College for four years before being ordained, then he spent another three years in Rome getting his masters in Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
There is a tradition in the Catholic Church where any priest within one year of their ordination can bestow a blessing on others. This “first blessing” carries a special indulgence with it. Upon flying back to Rome, Fr. Bechter was hounded by all the other seminarians asking for his first blessing. Fr. Bechter said, “That was my introduction to what it’s like to be there, to serve even if they’re saying congratulations.”
When asked about the beauties of the priesthood, Fr. Bechter said that hearing confessions was one of his favorite things to do. As the penitent, it is easy to feel judged and it is sometimes difficult to go to Confession. But, Fr. Bechter emphasized that Confession really is beautiful and that the priests are rooting for the penitent on the other side of the screen.
“Sometimes you can tell that people are kind of hiding things or sidestepping around things and the priest is over there just like praying for them, to just give that over to the Lord and to finally be done with it. He’s rooting for them to be able to see how much the Father loves them, and delights in them and wants them to be fully alive.”
He continued saying that Confession is something he loves to take part in because it’s a sacrifice in which you get to help God bring people back to life.
On the other hand, there are also difficulties that priests experience. For Fr. Bechter, the hardships lie in the absolute need for more priests and quite simply for more people to be on fire with a love for God.
He said: “Even just hearing confessions, hearing the way that our culture and the predominant sins of our culture, have enslaved so many people and made them feel as if they can never be free. Seeing that over and over again can be really hard as a priest because it can make you feel futile.”
Fr. Bechter emphasized that priests are supposed to help God and trust in His plan. The more they or anyone worry about the future and all the evil in the world, the more lost they will feel. He said: “You need to recognize that the Lord has called you to be His collaborator, but not to be a messiah.” Having faith in the Lord allows you to play your part and listen to what he calls you to do in the moment.
“It’s not always easy to stay so focused on Him so that you don’t look up at the whole scope of things and go, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I ever going to do this?’ It’s very much like Peter walking on the water, when he has his eyes fixed on the Lord, he’s performing this great miracle and doesn’t even realize it. When he starts to look around, and think, ‘I can’t be doing this,’ then he starts to sink.”
He continued saying, “Keeping your eyes fixed on the Lord, in the midst of all the busyness and pain and need that you encounter is probably the most difficult part.”
Fr. Bechter’s vocation story is one of openness to the Lord. He has allowed God to work through him ever since a life-changing confession many years ago. We should all attempt to imitate Fr. Bechter in our discernment process as we find our own calling.