In an audience on Saturday, March 23, with over 1,000 school-age children from the Barbarigo Catholic School in Padua, Italy, Pope Francis, challenged the young students to find a point of reference when trying to make a decision.
The Holy Father gently reminded the children that the single most important reference point for their life choices has to be their own conscience. This sounds like a great idea and can be taken as “do what you think is best,” but that’s really not what the Pontiff means. It means that we have to have a properly formed, Catholic conscience to be our guide.
What does conscience mean? Far from a “Jiminy Cricket” on our shoulder, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 1783-1785 reminds us of the following:
“Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.”
From this, we can ascertain that conscience is far from a subjective opinion, but involves a life-long commitment to the Truth who is Christ Jesus. This is a life-long task that requires each and every one of us not to simply rest on our laurels, but to know the real teachings of the Church and to understand them.
So, how can we learn the true teachings of the Church? For starters, create a good library of some basic books!
Here are some essentials when we want some help to guide us on our way to learning the truth:
- Get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church! This is an essential tool, which can, in one volume, give us a background and basis on what the Church believes, prays, and teaches!
- Get a copy of a good Catholic study Bible!
- Get a copy of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council! All too often, we rely on what others tell us what they think Vatican II taught. And the good thing is that most of this is all available online!
We can’t have a properly formed Catholic conscience if we have nothing on which to base it. These three texts can help us form a truly Catholic conscience.