Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

4 March 2012: The Second Sunday in Lent

The Judgment of Conscience

        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:

                Return to your conscience, question it....
                Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you
                do, see God as your witness.  (St. Augustine)

        The dignity of the human person implies and requires
of moral conscience
.  Conscience includes the perception of the
principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given
circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and
finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already
performed.  The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason,
is recognized practically and concretely by the
prudent judgment of
conscience.  We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with
this judgment.

        Conscience enables one to assume
responsibility for the acts
performed.  If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can
remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at
the same time as the evil of his particular choice.  The verdict  of the
judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy.  In
attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must
be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must
be constantly cultivated with the grace of God....

        Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as
personally to make moral decisions.  "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."

Catechism of the Catholic Church
                                                paragraphs 1779-1782

This is the second part of a series during Lent on conscience, taken
from the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Next week:  The Formation
of Conscience.                          
                                 Saint Michael Faith Enrichment.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent 26 February 2012

An Appeal to God for a Clean Conscience

"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.  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....For man has in is heart a law inscribed by God.... His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary.  There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.  It bears witness with the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments.  When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.  In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.  It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

        Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would
        not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a
        dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty,
        of a threat and a promise....[Conscience] is a messenger
        of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us
        behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his represen-
        tatives.  Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.
                        (Blessed Cardinal Newman)

                        -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                            paragraphs 1776-1778

        Your ways, O LORD. make known to me;
            teach me your paths.  (Psalm 25)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday 19 February 2012

Encouragement From Our Holy Father

    One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United
States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America's 
historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship 
between religion and culture.  At the heart of every culture, whether perceived 
or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus 
about the conditions for human flourishing.  In America, that consensus, as 
enshrined in your nation's founding documents, was grounded in a worldview
shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles 
deriving from nature and nature's God.  Today that consensus has eroded significantly 
in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly 
opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but 
increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.....

    ...[I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United 
States come to realize the grave threats to the Church's public moral witness 
presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the 
political and cultural spheres.  The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly 
appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.  Of particular concern are certain 
attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of 
religion.  Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to 
deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals 
and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices.  Others 
have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of
worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

    Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-
formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the
dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism
which would delegitimize the Church's participation in public debate 
about the issues which are determining the future of American society.  The 
preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing 
articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church 
in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these 
concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every 

                        Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
                        To the Bishops of the United States of America
                        On their Ad Limina Visit
                        Thursday 19 January 2012

       "I say to you, rise...."  (Mark 2:11)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunday 12 February 2012

Go, Show Yourself to the Priest

    The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others.  Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

    Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance:  "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self- examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly."

        When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they
        can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before
        the divine mercy for pardon.  But those who fail to do so and
        knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine
        goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest,
        "for if the sick is too ashamed to show his wound to the
        doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know."

    "Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession."  Here are profound reasons for this.  Christ is at work in each of the sacraments.  He personally addresses every sinner:  "My son, your sins are forgiven."  He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them.  He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion.  Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and with the Church.

                    -- Catechism of the Catholic Church
                        paragraphs 1455, 1456, 1484

        Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
            my guilt I covered not.
        I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD,
            and you took away the guilt of my sin.
                        -- Psalm 32