Pastoral Letter: Forming Our Conscience, and Community

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

This weekend, we begin our six-part series entitled, Forming Our Consciences: Practicing Our Faith in a World of Gray. I love that title because it acknowledges that as children of God we are complex creatures living in a complex world. Despite what we seem to be hearing in recent months and years, even the Church recognizes this. Vatican II teaches,

“Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law which they have not laid upon themselves and which they must obey…Conscience is the most secret core and the sanctuary of the human person. There they are alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths.” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes], no. 16)

and

“All are bound to follow their conscience faithfully in every sphere of activity so that they may come to God, who is their last end. Therefore, the individual must not be forced to act against conscience nor be prevented from acting according to conscience, especially in religious matters.” (Declaration on Religious Liberty [Dignitatis Humanae], no. 2)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also speaks to the formation of conscience when it says,

“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.” (no. 1783)

It is this notion of a well-formed conscience that drives our series. The first two sessions seek to discuss some of the skills and tools we need to authentically and genuinely form our consciences. The remaining four sessions will offer the opportunity to apply those skills to our contemporary lives.

Five and a half years ago, Pope Francis published an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Love in the Family (Amoris Laetitia). Early on, he addressed this very issue of conscience formation when he said,

“We [pastors] also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” (no. 37.)

It is our hope that this series, designed by our own Fr. John Coleman, helps you in the ongoing formation of your conscience, that it gives you tools to evaluate what you hear today coming from various authorities in the Church, from St. Peter’s in Rome to St. Ignatius in San Francisco, in order that you hear with confidence and clarity, along with hope and joy, the God whose voice echoes in the depths of your soul.

(I have to tell you, not even for a college paper did I ever string quotes together like that!)

On another note, please plan to join us on Sunday, September 26, for the 10:00 a.m. Mass and the Parish Picnic that follows. A generous and enthusiastic crew of your fellow parishioners has been meeting and planning for months, originally imagining this event to be a blowout, end-of-Covid, we’re-back-together event. They have had to be more than nimble, given the vicissitudes of the virus and its Delta variant. Running neck and neck for the top value guiding this annual event is your safety and your enjoyment, and I think that they have managed to incorporate them both. Please join us. And we’d love your help. You can visit here for more information (including on our safety protocols), to register, and to sign up to help.

I look forward to seeing you at both these events! In the meantime,

oremus pro invicem.

Fr. Greg