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April 2, 2020

Conscience formation is spiritual confrontation

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

“Everyone is a leader of conscience…. When our hearts are calm and pure, our wisdom will be unleashed…If all of us follow the guidance of our conscience, we can transform the world and accelerate humanity toward a better future”.

—Dr Hong Tao-Tze, president of the Federation of World Peace and Love (FOWPAL)

Today, Palm Sunday, and the start of Holy Week, the world also celebrates the first International Day of Conscience. Last September T&T’s former President, Anthony Carmona, was present at the World Leader Summit of Love and Peace, during the 74th UN General Assembly, to celebrate the UN’s adoption of Bahrain’s draft resolution designating April 5 as the International Day of Conscience.

He congratulated Dr Hong on his vision, and for his wisdom, and resilience. Inter alia, Dr Hong said: “Only with conscience will love and peace be practiced so that human rights be enhanced. Only with conscience will human rights be respected so that love and peace prevail.”

As the writer Amy Chen said: “…leaders from around the world have become more aware of the importance of conscience in the attainment of peace…FOWPAL will continue to encourage people to self-reflect and urge all nations and all organisations to hold love and conscience education programs, foster universal ceasefire, and facilitate peace talks so that everyone’s conscience will be awakened and the world will become peaceful.”

At an event in New York (February, 2020), co-organised by the Council for Justice, Equality and Peace and FOWPAL, to share ideas and action plans for a better world, Dr Hong encouraged people to take a brief moment of peace and tranquility to listen to the calling of conscience every day. “We believe that this sincere act of self-reflection will generate powerful forces to change the world.”

Catholics are taught very early in life about moral conscience. See our Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1776 to 1882.

For example: “1798. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgements according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience. 1799. Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them…1802. The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.”

We know about the need for an examination of conscience before seeking healing in the Sacrament of Penance—reflecting on our thoughts, words, and deeds to identify our sins.

“There are various types of examinations of conscience but regardless of which one you use to prepare yourself for the Sacrament it should be rooted in Scripture; particularly, the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes” (US Bishops).

In his homily during Mass at Santa Marta on September 4, 2018, Barbara Castelli, Vatican News, reported that Pope Francis urges us to make an examination of conscience every day.

“He said that in the heart of each person ‘the spirit of the world’ and the ‘Spirit of God’ confront one another every day. A person’s heart is like a ‘battlefield’ where two different ‘spirits’ confront one another: one, the Spirit of God, leads us ‘to good works, to charity, to fraternity’; the other, that of the world, pushes us ‘towards vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossiping.’

“’In the life of the Christian we must fight in order to make room for the Spirit of God,’ and ‘drive away the spirit of the world.’ The Pope suggested, a daily ‘examination of conscience’ can help to ‘identify temptations, to clarify how these opposing forces work. It is very simple: We have this great gift, which is the Spirit of God, but we are weak, we are sinners, and we still have the temptation of the spirit of the world. In this spiritual combat, in this war of the spirit, we need to be victors like Jesus.’ Pope Francis said every night a Christian should think over the events of the past day, to determine whether ‘vanity’ and ‘pride’ prevailed, or whether he/she has succeeded in imitating the Son of God.”

Let us not have anaesthetised consciences in the face of the many social ills that confront us today. Conscience formation is critical if we are to build God’s Kingdom of justice, peace, truth, love, freedom and forgiveness.

The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love. (29)

—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,

Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee