Forming conscience...

In an October 1 letter sent to Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Pope Benedict XVI says he has high hopes for the meeting of Christian families at their 6th World Meeting, to be held in January 2009 in Mexico...
Benedict XVI's note explains his objective for the world meeting: "In these times in which it is notable that there is a frequent contradiction between what is professed as belief and concrete ways of living and acting, the next World Meeting of Families proposes to encourage Christian households in the formation of a right moral conscience that, strengthened by the grace of God, helps in the faithful following of his will, which he has revealed to us through Jesus Christ and which he has sowed in the depths of the heart of each person."

The Pope said that families, as "domestic churches," are called to form new generations in human and Christian values so that "orienting their lives according to the model of Christ, they forge in themselves harmonious personalities..."
Unfortunately, even papal "notes" are written in such stilted language that all but those professionally interested pay them no attention. But there's something very much worth looking at here.

The pope is naming the family and its life as the "domestic church" charged with the task of forming good conscience in its members, and especially in its children. The formation of conscience for good moral decision making was part of our work with adults and high school students at our Faith Festivals a few weeks ago. The pope's note gives rise to some good questions for us:

How was my conscience formed?
Who helped to form it?
What factors in my upbringing shaped the conscience I have today?
How do I continue to develop and mature my conscience?
How do scripture, church teaching and prayer form my conscience now?
Am I responsible for helping to form the conscience of young people?
How am I doing in that work?


  1. Each week I attempt to understand the readings for the upcoming weekend, but always seem to fail miserably. It isn't until I hear your Homilies that the light bulb goes off and I beging to "get it".
    How does a layperson even begin to grasp what is being said. On occasion, the readings are pretty black and white, so I find myself able to make some conclusions, but other times, like this week, I fall short.I think most of my thinking is done in black and white and not "outside the box", which I think would probably be the way to better understandings.

  2. Good questions, Regina!

    First of all, be glad that you don't need to write a homily! That's a rather specialized task and since I've been doing it for 35 years (since I was a transitional deacon in 1972) I'm accustomed to tackling the texts from a homilist's perspective. What you might do is simply read over the scriptures, read the background material and ask yourself, "What strikes me here? What speaks to me? What do these texts stir up in me? What words or phrases do I want to hang on to? What might God be saying to me in these texts?" Questiions like those will help familiarize you with the passages and make them more accessible on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

  3. Thank you Fr. Fleming,
    I will try to incorporate that way of thinking this week when I read the scriptures. I also have a Bible, non Catholic that puts the scriptures into todays word. It will be interesting to see how much common ground there is.


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!