Sometimes it's just overwhelming to realize how much the Holy Spirit arranges for what we need spiritually at a given time.
I became a Catholic back in college, in between sophomore and junior year. I was baptized on a Saturday afternoon toward the end of the summer. By the following Saturday, I knew it was already time for my first confession! The little parish near campus had a fairly typical confession schedule: Saturday afternoon, 4-4:30. From that day forward, I went to confession every Saturday afternoon and then returned to campus for the vigil Mass.
I was surprised to discover that no matter what I said in confession, the old priest always delivered the same counsel and penance, which I heard so many weeks in a row I can still reproduce it now:
Thank God for having made a good confession, and tell Jesus that you love him. For your penance say three Our Fathers and three Haily Marys. Now, make a good Act of Contrition.
Perhaps my confessions were all more or less similar, though I know that some were much graver and more complex than others. But no matter what I said, I always got the same thing. I can only guess that maybe that's what he said for every confession.
But here's where I'm amazed by Providence: As a priest, I woudn't want to think of saying something so brief and generic to a penitent, much less the same penitent twice. But as a nervous and somewhat scrupulous neophtye, this was just what I needed. I was put at ease so that I could examine my conscience without worry, and I became more free in what sins I would admit because I had no fear of having the priest confirm my feeling that I was off to such a bad start as a Catholic.
I laugh a little about this now that I am a priest myself; it doesn't take much time in the confessional before nothing much shocks you anymore, and you soon realize that original sin is quite unoriginal in its various derivatives.
But recalling my own early experience from time to time reminds me that not every penitent needs a lot of counsel. For some, the last thing they need is more religious input. As a young priest, you always want to make that amazing "surgical strike" in penitential counsel, but sometimes you also need to let go of this ambition too. Some penitents just need a calm and reassuring word, and a renewing connection to the God who delights to see us leave the unreality of sin behind.