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Dear St. Martin’s Parishioners,

In this Sunday’s second reading, Saint Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, “I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness…” (9:1).

What is “conscience”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines conscience as “a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act…” (paragraph 1778). With our conscience, we ask ourselves, “Is this act right or wrong, good or evil?”

There is a lot of talk these days about “following your conscience.” What does this mean? We might confuse this with thinking that it means doing what benefits me, or most pleasurable to me, or what is good for me. But the problem with this understanding is that it makes “me” (that is, the individual person) the arbiter of what is good, and not God. Our consciences help us to hear the voice of God; it helps us recognize the truth about God and the truth about how we are called to live as he has revealed and commanded us.

We all have consciences, but we need to form them well, because a well-formed conscience helps us to choose what is truly good. If our conscience isn’t well-formed, we aren’t well-equipped to determine right from wrong. All of us have the personal responsibility to align our consciences with the truth so that, when we are faced with the challenges of daily life, our consciences can help guide us well.

So how do we form our consciences? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides helpful ways:

  1. Pray: Through prayer and the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, we encounter the living God. Spending time with the Lord, such as in silent adoration, opens our hearts to him. In drawing closer to the Lord, we allow God’s grace to conform our minds and hearts to Christ, so that we might better discern in every moment how we ought to act.

  2. Learn: As Catholics, we have the immense gift of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and can turn to it for help forming our consciences. For example, learning about Christian moral principles, reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or researching what the Church says about a challenging teaching will help us grow in knowledge of the truth. In turn, this helps us understand a little more how to live in a way that leads to our true happiness.

  3. Reflect: We are formed by the stories we hear and tell. We may be uncertain how we ought to respond to various challenges as followers of Jesus, but there are many saints who have faced similar questions throughout the ages. Immersing ourselves in the stories of holy women and men can encourage us and help us develop habits of mind that allow us to grow.

  4. Nurture friendships: A life of following Jesus is exceedingly difficult without help from a community. When we devote energy to holy friendships with people who are also trying to know, love, and serve the Lord, we gain partners who can lighten the load. Conversation with other Christians about how to respond to challenges in the life of discipleship are vital.

Like Paul, may we join our consciences with the Holy Spirit so as to speak the truth in Christ.

We look forward to seeing you all on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary this Tuesday, August 15. Please note that this is a holy day of obligation. Our Mass times are 6:30am (English), 9:00am (English), 12:15pm (English), 5:30pm (English), and 7:00pm (Spanish).

To Jesus through Mary,

Fr. Patrick

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