Tag Archives: conscience

Conscience is the window to truth

right wrongIn the 10th grade Confirmation class that I teach the question of Conscience and its formation was the topic of conversation the other day. Most of the students knew nothing about conscience, why it was important to inform and to form and how it functions in making good decisions.

One of the things the ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation has reminded me that ethics (conscience) never comes before the event of the Incarnation. Conscience is first built on the relationship one has with his or her God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) lived within the companionship of the Church. More on this subject later.

This article published on LifeSiteNews highlights the Pope’s theologian, Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych, who is addressing the change, or not, of Catholic doctrine by local conferences of bishops, and he gets into the role of conscience. “Many people identify conscience with feelings…Feelings are secondary; conscience is a window to truth. … The conscience has to be formed to see the truth.” AND “You have to perceive the truth of the matter, by reason.” There is more in this article and so I ask that you read the article and think about the facts, not merely what you want to hear.

Well-formed consciences give witness to something greater

These days the use of the word of conscience is bantered around without much substance to my line of thinking. Some really crazy (unreasonable) things are said about conscience and the use of it. Certainty is about reasonable things is not well accepted thinking persons. Additionally, the public forum is beginning to be more belligerent if a course correction is needed because we live in a “culture of nice” that dictates don’t be judgmental. All sorts of media outlets, politicians, talking heads and professors derail the conversation to force a fallacious agenda that allows for all things that indicate “just because.” We easily trot out the word conscience thinking that we know what it means, that our interlocutors know what the word conscience means, and that that the context within which we find ourselves can handle a fully functioning, clear definition that focuses on truth.  Less confusion is needed: clear principles and identifiable conclusions are absolute. The contours of what conscience really is under assault.

This morning I read the following spiritual reflection from a sermon by Saint Augustine on conscience and began to think –not brilliantly of course– that a new level discourse that gets to the heart of the truth and gives proper witness to a life of good conscience is needed. No longer is it acceptable to use conscience in flippant ways that divorce God from every level of our life. In a concrete way it is true to say that without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ a fully formed conscience is impossible. Fuzzy thinking will lead to absurd actions. In positive terms: only with  Jesus is man and woman fully alive and capable of giving witness to freedom. Too much is at stake: personal freedom, life in the Christian community, work in society, the arts, medicine, politics. Faith and reason are expected and valued dialogue partners. 

This is our glory: the witness of our conscience. There are men who rashly judge, who slander, whisper and murmur, who are eager to suspect what they do not see, and eager to spread abroad things they have not even a suspicion of. Against men of this sort, what defense is there save the witness of our own conscience?

My brothers, we do not seek, nor should we seek, our own glory even among those whose approval we desire. What we should seek is their salvation, so that if we walk as we should they will not go astray in following us. They should imitate us if we are imitators of Christ; and if we are not, they should still imitate him. […]

And so, my brothers, our concern should be not only to live as we ought, but also to do so in the sight of men; not only to have a good conscience but also, so far as we can in our weakness, so far as we can govern our frailty, to do nothing which might lead our weak brother into thinking evil of us. Otherwise, as we feed on the good pasture and drink the pure water, we may trample on God’s meadow, and weaker sheep will have to feed on trampled grass and drink from troubled waters.

Christian freedom means talking about God, listening to God –to be truly free

Jesus is oriented toward the Father. His face is set on God. As Saint Luke says, “Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Today’s Angelus text given by Pope Francis is a marvelous for study and prayer. “If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free.”


“So we also must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience. Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.”

Pope Francis presents Pope Benedict XVI as an example of this discernment. I recommend that you consider reading the Pope’s Angelus text here.

Benedict XVI’s Year’s end Vespers homily

Benedict XVI vespers Dec 31 2012.jpg

The Pope’s homily for Vespers at the Vatican basilica follows below. He sets out a very clear direction for Christian living and pastoral activity. Are we going to listen? The Pope preached:

I thank all of
you who have chosen to participate in this liturgy of the last hour of the year
of the Lord 2012. This “hour” bears a particular intensity and becomes, in a
sense, a synthesis of all the hours of the year that is about to come to an
end. I cordially greet the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, consecrated persons and
lay faithful, and especially the many people from the ecclesial community of
Rome. In a special way I greet the Authorities present, beginning with the
Mayor of the City, and thank them for choosing to share with us this moment of prayer
and thanksgiving to God.

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Martin Luther King, Jr and Saint Francis Xavier with the Church

Connecting people is a dangerous thing. It is even more perilous if you connect people from different centuries, places, ethnicities, religions and politics. I read this quote from Dr Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968) that made me think of those like Saint Francis Xavier had some difficulty convincing the “powers that be” that their behaviors, policies and attitudes are incoherent with the Gospel and Christ’s Church. I am thinking of Bartholomew de las Casas, OP, Blessed John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, OFS, Saint Katharine Drexel, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint Thomas More, Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, Servant of God Dorothy Day, Obl SB, Father Alexander Men and countless others.

What leads me to make this connect the dots? In his 1963 book, From his Sermons In Strength To Love, King stated, 
The Church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool. If the Church does not recapture it prophetic zeal it will become an irrelevant social club without morals or spiritual authority.
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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