Saint Antony received many charisms from God, one of which was preaching in the Holy Spirit. When he spoke, hearts opened to God like flowers to the sun. Saint Francis of Assisi therefore entrusted him with preaching, and teaching his brothers. One of my favorite anecdotes from his life goes like this: One day Saint Anthony was preaching, and a passerby began to listen to him. The man had committed very grave sins and had been making fun of God, but when he heard Anthony's words of grace, his heart was touched and he could feel the incredible love Jesus had for him. Seeing himself loved so much, he began to sob like a little child, and his tears became even more abundant when he thought about all the harm he had done to Jesus with his sins. He then decided to change his life, to follow Jesus with all his heart, and to go to confession.
Upon entering Saint Anthony's confessional, his crying prevented him from uttering a single word. So Anthony suggested that he go back home, write his sins on a piece of paper, then come back to the confessional, and he did. Anthony slowly read the impressive list of sins while the man could only nod as a sign of acquiesce. He still hadn't recover his voice, so strong was the emotion that had seized him. Finally Anthony reassured his penitent and encouraged him to change his life and to live with Jesus according to the Gospel. Then he gave him a penance and the absolution from all of his sins. The man had made peace with God! Anthony carefully folded the paper where the terrible list of sins were written and gave it back to the forgiven sinner who left unburdened and joyful.
When the man arrived home, he wanted to burn the paper. He unfolded it and to his surprise, he found the paper completely blank! His sins had totally disappeared! Gone! God was caught in the middle of a delicate act of mercy! It is then that the man realized even more the grace of his confession: when God sees that we come to Him with a real contrition, the desire not to sin any more, and the decision to change our ways, He rejoices so much that not only does He forgive us our sins, but He forgets them! They no longer exist! They are washed in the blood of the Lamb and God becomes amnesic of our evil deeds.
If we have sincere contrition, even the debt caused by the sin is erased, either partly or totally, according to the depth of our repentance. In other words, the pain from having wounded Jesus, The one we love, spares us purgatory, either completely, or partly. Our desert fathers even claimed that the gift of tears is the greatest gift that we can expect from the Holy Spirit. It is a burning love, a most blessed burn because it opens wide the gates of Heaven!