In my past two blog entries (June 8, 2014 and June 15) I have talked about the importance of having a conscience. The first post in this series was a re-telling of the story of St. Thomas More, who chose death rather than give away his conscience. The second post in this series discussed what conscience is, how it works, and how to form your conscience. This post will discuss how following your conscience enables you to answer your vocation.
Simply put, someone cannot hear and respond to God’s calling if they do not first hear and respond to their conscience. Conscience is often described as a “still, small voice” speaking to our mind and heart.
As an aside – pretty much every point I am going to make here can also be found with the guidance of Disney’s “Jiminy Cricket”. I am sure that you remember him from Pinocchio. The videos entitled “Always let your conscience be your guide”, and “you are a human animal” are very good (the first couple of minutes of the “animal” video pretty much make my point).
We as human beings are capable of observing things with our senses, and of understanding certain universal truths that move the things we observe. Our conscience is the wonderful place inside a human where we can apply learned knowledge of truth to current experiences, and make choices in harmony with what is good.
Some have argued that we can never understand the universal principles (also called “truth or goodness”) behind what we sense. Rather, they say, we can only know with certainty how things work, and not why they work as they do. They say that we cannot discover the purpose, value, and origin of things (as they were created to be!) Rather, they say that we give purpose, value, and origin to things – this is true freedom – the freedom to make our own reality. However, those who wish to be so radically free as to make their own reality undermine freedom itself. For if each person is able to define what is “true”, by what standard do they do that? And how is one’s version of truth any better than another’s version?
Scientific observation can tell us how things work. Reason can help us understand why things work. People must be given the freedom to search for and find the “truth”, but it must be possible to find! It is something that exists in reality, and is not just a figment of the imagination, or some value that a person makes up in his or her own mind. Freedom demands it. Conscience demands it.
We need to engage in this search for the truth. I fervently believe that the truth seeker will be satisfied only when they encounter God. In our search for the truth in our experiences, we will encounter a creator who has given us gifts such as our ability to think, our ability to work, and our ability to love. In our using of these abilities, we begin to participate in the life of our creator. We realize that our creator is not indifferent to how we think, how we work, and how we love. Indeed, our creator has a plan for us – a proposal of love for us to accept.
That proposal of love is a story found in the Sacred Scriptures. It is a story that leads us from the origins of creation, to the wanderings of Abraham, through the desert with Moses, to King David, the holy prophets, and all the way to Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection, we our mind discovers the wonderful truth, “We love because God loved us first.” (1 John 4:19). Then, when we realize that the creator of what is good, true, and beautiful is also personally invested in our life, we can begin to ask the question, “what must I do?”. To that, Jesus tells us, “Follow me.” Jesus may ask us to follow Him as a married person, a single consecrated person, a religious, or an ordained minister. But Jesus will let you know!
As an aside -many people may come to a different conclusion (which I believe to be a wrong conclusion) about God or religion, but so long as they are seeking universal truth, they are a friend of God!
Sometimes, people will work up from no belief to a vocation to the Priesthood. Often times, a person will go from a traditional, customary belief in God to a more personal, profound sense of God calling them. Regardless, those who are to answer the call must first approach with a well-formed, active conscience. As Pope Benedict XVI once said, we must be “servants of the truth” first and foremost. After all, Jesus once called Himself “The Truth”. How can you say you have answered Jesus if you have yet to seek the truth, and live in it? How will you have the courage to stand, if you first do not have the courage of conviction in the truth? May we support all people of good will in this pursuit, and may this pursuit lead speedily to Jesus Christ’s true love for each and all of us.