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Follow your Conscience – but form it well first
As the book of Sirach announces ““A man's conscience can tell him his situation better than seven watchmen in a lofty tower. Most important of all, pray to God to set your feet in the path of truth” (Sirach 37:14-15). “The care for the formation of the conscience clearly emerges as the fundamental ethical responsibility of every person.” So wrote Fr Sabatino Majorano, CSsR, a Redemptorist moral theologian and expert on Conscience.
Last Sunday, 22 September 2019, saw our very own Verbum Dei missionary priest, James McTavish, give us a wholesome session on the formation of conscience and its challenges. He reminded us of the definition of conscience found in Gaudium et spes, which describes the conscience as “the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There he/she is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his/her depths.” The formation was part of the ACRH (Apostolate Center Retreat House) series of talks. The participants were reminded of the urgency to form the conscience well as “we are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment” (Pope Francis).
Some practical cases of conscience were given including the latest Catholic Church teaching on the death penalty, which was promulgated recently. The Catechism of the Catholic Church now states, “Therefore the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is attentive to the inviolability and dignity of the person, and is committed with determination to its abolition throughout the world” (CCC, no. 2267). If more Catholics were aware of this perhaps there would be less support for all the killings around us.
The final part of the session included a reflection on the means for forming a well-formed conscience - prayer and interiority, exam of conscience, confession, dialog and contrast, Church teaching and our preaching to help enlighten the conscience. The Catechism also underlines that “it is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection” (CCC 1779).
As followers of Christ, we went home conscious that as Fr Jaime Bonet, the Verbum Dei founder taught, “it would be impossible to live, feel, think and love like Jesus without a keen sensitivity and right formation of conscience.”
One participant said “I loved my morning! It was exactly what I needed which I considered such a surprise gift on a Sunday. Formation talks like this are very helpful and may I say necessary because in order to be more effective in our sharing the word, we need to be properly informed.”
With thanks to the WordNews team
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