The glory of God, which for human beings is identified with their eternal salvation, was announced by the angels at the Lord's birth as being intimately connected with peace: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Luke 2:14), and Jesus, in the supreme testament of the Last Supper, left his peace as a final inheritance: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (Jn 14:27).
By the very fact that it imparts or increases grace, the sacrament of Penance offers the gift of peace. "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace".
To understand correctly the nature of this peace, we must remember that the harmony between body and soul, between the spiritual will and the emotions, was profoundly disturbed as a result of original sin and our personal sins, so that there is often a vigorous struggle within us: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.... I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members" (Rom 7:19-23).
But this conflict does not exclude the person's deep peace of mind. In the sacrament of Penance the faithful legitimately seek to begin that interior process which leads, as far as possible in their condition as wayfarers, to the progressive conformity of their own psychological state with that higher peace which consists in compliance with God's will. In fact, the reasonable assurance that we are in the state of grace, although not eliminating interior conflicts, makes them tolerable and, when holiness is achieved, even desirable. Not without reason did St Francis of Assisi say: "So great is the good which I await, that every pain is my delight."
In this same vein, one of the effects of the sacrament of Penance that the faithful can rightly expect and desire is to mitigate the impulses of passion, to correct intellectual or emotional defects (as in the case of the scrupulous), to refine all our free action, as a result of restored and growing supernatural charity.
One would not be justified, however, in wanting to transform the sacrament of Penance into psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. The confessional is not and cannot be an alternative to the psychoanalyst's or psychotherapist's office. Nor can one expect the sacrament of Penance to heal truly pathological conditions. The confessor is not a healer or a physician in the technical sense of the term; in fact, if the condition of the penitent seems to require medical care, the confessor should not deal with the matter himself, but should send the penitent to competent and honest professionals. Similarly, although the enlightening of consciences requires the clarification of ideas about the proper meaning of God's commandments, the sacrament of Penance is not and should not be the place for explaining the mysteries of life.