Father Cafasso had spent a whole week instructing and encouraging forty-five notorious criminals in a large cell, in preparation for the feast of the Virgin Mary. Almost all of them had promised to go to confession on the eve of the feast.But when the day arrived, no one had the courage to be the first one, whether because of human respect, the guile of the devil, or for some other reason.
Father Cafasso renewed his request, briefly recalling the instruction of the preceding days and reminding them of their promise, but in vain. What was he to do?
Supernatural love is ingenious, and Father Cafasso found a solution. Laughingly he approached one of them, the tallest and strongest among them. Without uttering a word, he grabbed the man's long, thick beard in his frail hands. At first the prisoner thought that Father Cafasso was jesting, so he only said, with as much courtesy as one might expect from one of his kind, "Take all of me, but leave my beard behind."
"I'm not letting go until you come to confession."
"But I'm not coming."
"Then I wont let you go."
"I don't want to go to confession."
"Talk all you want, you're not going to get away from me. I wont let you go until you've made your confession."
"I'm not prepared."
"I'll help you."
The convict could have very easily shaken off Father Cafasso's hold, but either because of respect for him, or, better yet, because of God's grace, it is a fact that the convict yielded and allowed Father Cafasso to lead him to a corner of the large cell. The priest sat down on a straw mattress and prepared him for confession. Surprisingly, in a few moments, the convict was deeply moved, and amid tears and sighs, was just barely able to finish the recitation of his sins.
Taken from the book The Wisdom of the Saints.