Welcome to Week 3 of Faith Refreshed, an online retreat to help us “hit the refresh button” in our spiritual lives. Throughout this retreat, I am drawing from my best-selling book, A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe, as we revisit the four pillars of our Catholic faith and invite the Holy Spirit to refresh our understanding of the basics of our faith and renew us in our efforts to proclaim the Good News to others.
Week 3: What Were You Thinking? (The Moral Life)
Open yourself up to God’s presence through the 3-Minute Retreat: Making Hard Decisions.
Pray the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
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 soliciting a prostitute. To the roar of audience laughter, Leno bluntly asked, “What were you thinking?” Most of us would agree that Grant had not been thinking at all! Many of us have been on the receiving end of this question, most likely when we were children and our parents asked us this question 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 wills 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 consciences. 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.
Meditation Song: “Lead Me, Guide Me”
Choose one of the following questions, and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments below this post.
- 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.
- A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic’s Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe
- What’s Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity
- A Step-by-Step Discernment Process
- Four Strategies for Discernment
- Our Choices as God Might See Them
- Pop-Up Catechesis: Teaching the Art of Discernment
CCC References: 1776–1802
Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.