WEEK THREE: The Moral Life (Life in Christ)
DAY 5: What Were You Thinking? (Conscience and Moral Decision Making)
Do you know who scores highest on religious literacy tests? Catholics? Protestants? Mormons? Jews?
The answer is: ATHEISTS!
Does that surprise you? It does and it doesn’t for me. In truth, I would say that it disappoints me more than it surprises me. Why doesn’t it surprise me? Because too many of us Christians approach our faith as simply a cultural reality that requires little thought. Atheists, on the other hand, have often done their homework, devoting a great deal of thinking to their stance. We may disagree with their conclusions, however, we have to give them credit for grappling with the big questions.
One of the reasons that I find Catholicism so compelling is because we are not told to check our brains at the door. Catholicism has a rich heritage of deep and profound thinkers who have taught us that faith and reason must work together. Thinking is a huge part of our faith. (We should be number one in religious literacy!)
One of the most famous questions asked on late-night television was on The Tonight Show in 1995, when Jay Leno interviewed actor Hugh Grant, not long after Grant had been arrested for seeing a prostitute. To the roar of audience laughter, Leno bluntly asked, “What were you thinking?” Most of us would agree that Mr. Grant had not been thinking at all! Many of us have been on the receiving end of this question, most likely from our parents, after we had done something stupid. Prudence is the habit of thinking before acting. This flies in the face of today’s mentality of “Just do it!” While there is something to be said for spontaneity, some of our choices in life require deep thought, prayer, and consideration, lest we find ourselves facing the consequences of a poor decision.
St. Ignatius of Loyola used the word discernment to describe the process of making a decision based on deep thought and prayer. To discern is to honor the place of God’s will in our lives. It is an interior search that seeks to align our own will with the will of God so that we can learn what God is calling us to do and become. Every choice we make, no matter how small, is an opportunity to be prudent.
To follow one’s conscience is not to be equated with simply doing what one feels like doing. Too many of us miss the imperative that says we are responsible for informing our conscience. We need to do our homework. We need to think. Catholics are called to be thinkers. We are called to lifelong catechesis. Catechesis is a huge part of being Catholic because following Jesus is an eyes-wide-open experience. Our faith in Jesus is not blind faith. On the contrary, our faith calls us to have our eyesight corrected so that we learn to see as God sees.
- What does it mean to say that a conscience is less like a voice and more like a pair of eyeglasses?
- Who has been a major influence in your life in terms of forming your conscience?
- How can guilt be a healthy thing when it comes to forming a conscience?
- What steps do you try to follow when making an important moral decision?
- What do you do to continue learning about your Catholic faith? What would you like to do?
Loving God, send your Holy Spirit to ignite my heart with your love and to open my mind so that I might follow you more closely. Help me to inform my conscience so that I can come to see myself, others, and the world as you see them. Guide me in my choices. Help me to think, so that I might act according to your will. Help me to love you with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.
- His Life Was Good But His Thinking Was Bad
- Discernment How-Tos
- There’s Something About Discernment
- Our Choices as God Might See Them
- Desires, Discernment, and Decisions
CCC References: 1776-1802
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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.