Sunday, 15 June 2014

Confessor - A Saint Lite

A portrait of a very pious-looking Maximum the Confessor
Don't invite anyone with the title Confessor to a party - they're notorious killjoys
(painting of Maximum the Confessor)


Noun. Old English.
[Anglo-Norman confessur, Old French confessour (modern confesseur) from ecclesiastical Latin confessor, from confess-.]

1 A person avowing his religion in the face of danger, and adhering to it despite persecution, but not suffering martyrdom. OE

2 A person who makes confession or public acknowledgement of religious belief, etc., or (later) of a crime, sin, etc. ME

3 A priest who hears confessions. ME

Have you ever wondered what a confessor is? Well, I hadn't either to be honest, at least until I read the entry in the dictionary. For me, a confessor has mainly been the stock murderer in lazily written episodes of CSI and the like, the type of criminal that conveniently gives a full and detailed confession at the end of every single episode rather than drag out the whole process through years of trials, legal quibbles and technicalities, as does any criminal worth his salt.

However, as given in the definition, confessor is a title conferred upon someone by various Christian denominations, perhaps most famously with Edward the Confessor, King of England between 1042-1066 and known for his great piety. According to the Catholic encyclopaedia New Advent, confessor is a title conferred upon "those men who have distinguished themselves by heroic virtue" in the face of persecution because of their faith, but generally not to the point of martyrdom. That encyclopaedia is talking about confessors of the Catholic Church, obviously, but seemingly it's a title given by other denominations too.

So, if you'd like to be venerated by your church but don't like the idea of martyrdom, be virtuous, avow your faith, and be at least a little bit persecuted for doing so (it's kind of Sainthood Lite). First, however, do check that your denomination uses the title confessor, and remember to not let your persecutors, under any circumstances, kill you.

Are you confessor?

Would you like to be?

Do please give light to your darkest thoughts in the confessional comment box below.


  1. Ah, but the trouble with being a confessor is that you'd have to be virtuous and godly for years and years. Getting made a saint is much, much quicker. In fact, I've often wondered what the shortest qualification period of any saint is. Ten minutes? Some of them have been converted pretty much on the scaffold.

    1. But even if you only live the saintly life for a matter of minutes, it still ends with you being impaled, boiled in oil or strangled with your own belly button fluff. I'm a bit squeamish about stuff like that, and I'm relatively well-behaved, so I think I'll be going for the confessorship.

  2. I confess that I am confused. It appears that the only other word ending in 'fessor' is professor. Hence we appear to have two words, one for and the other against 'fessing', whatever that is. Now a professor is usually a learned person who avows or declares something; but then, so is a confessor. In fact, you could have a situation where a person confesses to being a professor. Help please, Eddie.

    1. Easy: the professor gets paid for it!

    2. Hmm. That's interesting. I can't think of any other words that end in 'fessor' either.

      However, the problem here comes in where you're splitting up the words into their etymological components, because '-fessor' isn't the suffix in either of these words - rather it's -'or', meaning a person or agent that carries out a particular action, and for this there are loads in English: doctor, sculptor, governor, sailor, visitor, etc.

      The prefixes of these two words are 'profess' and 'confess' - therefore, a professor is 'one that professes' and a confessor is 'one that confesses'. And, as Sally pointed out, the compensation plan for each is quite different to the other.