The back of this week’s Spirit magazine address the idea of conscience. And in the main story, Wilbur has a moment when he quiets himself, listens to his conscience, and stops writing hurtful things about his classmates. The Catechism states:
Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.
In all that he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.
I love the Church teaching on conscience. I love the idea that God has placed a law on my heart. Deep inside of me, if I listen, God will tell me what is right. I think that some people find their conscience in their mind, others in their heart, others in their gut. Most people though, no matter where in their bodies they feel it, will tell you that they do sense a moral compass. Our conscience gives us individual authority. We are responsible to tap into our conscience and act on it to do what we know is right. It is not, however, easy or automatic.
It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience.
Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed.
When I have done something to hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, it is usually when my life is moving fast and I’m not taking enough time to be mindful and reflective. The Catechism reminds us that our conscience is not always easily accessible. When I take time in my life to quiet myself enough to hear the whisper and really sit with God, I tend to act in a way that honors God’s hope for my life and the lives of others. If I’m upset and ready to send an angry email, I have learned to sleep on it. If I’m making a big decision, I have learned to carve out time to be by myself and pray.
A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful.
It is not just our moral responsibility to listen to and act on our conscience, it’s also our moral responsibility to inform our consciences. When I was little, my parents helped me form my conscience by telling me when I did something wrong. As an adult, one thing that has continually informed my conscience is traveling. When I meet people whose lives are very different from my own and listen to their stories, I make different decisions about how to live my life. When I meet someone who is living in poverty, for example, I try to simplify my life and give more time and money to efforts to eradicate poverty. Informing our consciences is a life-long spiritual process. It’s so good to know that as we strive to do what is right and avoid what is evil, we have a loving God who is full of generous mercy and patient forgiveness.
Have you ever done anything that you knew was wrong? How did your conscience let you know?
Have you ever consulted your conscience before acting? Did it help?
How do you quiet yourself enough to be able to hear your conscience?
What is something that you have changed your mind on as your conscience has become more informed?
How do you continue to inform your conscience?
Photo courtesy of JPott via Creative Commons License