Continuing Reflections on Conscience Formed or Unformed

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Like my friend  Fr. Austin Fleming at A Concord Pastor Comments my recent thoughts have been preoccupied with John Kavanaugh's essay in America introduced in a previous post Conscience Formed or Unformed.

So this post is a partial response and continues the reflections on it.

“There are only two places that I know where you can find silence today. A church and a library.”

“Well its always been that way, my son,” the old man replied.

"But the difference now is that they are not silent because of the reverence paid to faith and knowledge. They are silent because they are just empty."
Fewer people are developing their understanding of life’s meaning from dogmatic religion. This freedom leads to people having religious experiences outside of a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or any traditional house of worship.
Ignatian spirituality might sympathise as its axiom is to find God in all things but without the sacraments when culture alone begins to provide the religious service of creating meaning it is hardly surprising that this leads to many  lives being based on the nothing more than the simple cult of self-fulfillment.

Billions kneel at its altar daily and recite the mantra: Buy, build, better, more, want, want , compete, boast. Buy, build, better, more, want, want, compete, boast.

Critical faculties of discernment and the practice of learning to contemplate in silence and what true happiness means in this life are  negligible and traditional role models in religious terms are lacking in street credibility to many young people.

The polarities of fundamentalism, atheism and agnosticism weave their way into the fabric of our children's lives and rob them of humility and the diverse richness of the  celebration of God's love for us in church and community. 

Their learning is imbued with relativism, indifference and cynicism towards the sacred. No one talks about their  faith around the family table much these days !! Few families lay time  aside to spend together to practice prayer and make a space for God in daily life.  "Church- speak"often seems to be at variance and out of touch with the needs of  people.

As Leo Tolstoy said --The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. 
What are those other parts of society that have the veneer of religious function ; that define for us the fundamental meaning of events; that provide answers to our deepest questions of self-identity? Who are the Gods of our modern Pantheon?

How will the Church revitalise and nurture faith and mission for future generations??

Where are the living cornerstones of our faith being laid for building the future??
How will the spaces in our churches be filled with the vibrant life and  the yearnings of future generations ? 

Where are the open spaces in our church  breathing life for  true collaborative ministry and the priesthood of all the people  irrespective of gender, sexuality or age? 

Where in our churches will there be a place for real dialogue and the conviction that church is a valid place where these questions can be dealt with openly without petty judgements and hostile criticism being hoisted on those who ask the questions ?

An agnostic  colleague remarked to me :"How come that at the Mass the bread and wine change but the people who receive never seem to" ? !!

One thing is certain "Where there is no vision the people will perish.....
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claire said...

Informing one's conscience can be dangerous. In fact, it is often dangerous because one finds oneself suddenly alone seeing a situation differently.
Look at Oscar Romero, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr, Dorothy Day.
An informed conscience rarely makes one popular...
Still I think it is quite worthwhile informing one's conscience while walking alongside Jesus.
The endgame can be sobering, but it is also strangely triumphant, in an odd sort of way.
Thank you so much for your blog, Phil.

Philomena Ewing said...

Thanks Claire.
Yes yes and yes !!
This week I listened to a radio programme on Aung San Suu Kyi Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, who has become a symbol of the struggle of Burma's people to be free and was 65 this week. If anyone has lived out a life full of grace and informed conscience she has.