Fostering the practice of Conscience Formation
December 31, 2013
New Year’s Eve
In a few hours the new year, 2014 will be upon us. For the past week my inbox has been flooded with reminders that 2013 is drawing to a close. From the many emails reminding me to make a charitable contribution to double my impact, to those emails capturing an entire array of stories from 2013… I’m all too aware that 2014 is on the horizon.
So, for my last posting of 2013 rather than focus on resolutions or goals or news stories, I’d like to focus on conscience formation through the experience of our children. Their first confession is less than 4 weeks away, and two weeks from tomorrow [Wednesday, January 15 @ 7:00 pm] we will gather in Oldershaw Hall with our children to discern their readiness.
Getting to the heart – with certainty, we know conscience formation doesn’t stop when we made our first confession [penance] or when we are anointed with the holy chrism at Confirmation. Conscience formation is a life-long task prompting us to continually discern the voice of God in our heart of hearts. There are supports available to help us in the ongoing formation of our conscience…the Sacrament of Reconciliation, talking with a spiritual guide, a trusted friend, praying for the guidance of the Holy One, prayerful reading of the Scriptures to name a few.
As we draw ever so close to our children’s first confession on Saturday, January 25, how can we help them develop the skills and practice of forming their conscience. I borrow from the insights of Tom McGrath from his work entitled, God’s Gift: Reconciliation – Preparing at Home for First Reconciliation [p. 34]. Tom suggests ways to help our children get off to a good start:
- Make a clear presentation of the wisdom of the Church on moral issues that affect your child. At this age, these tend to be simple issues of personal right and wrong-telling the truth, not taking what doesn’t belong to him or her, and treating others fairly and with kindness.
- Children (and adults) learn through stories. Choose good books, films, and television programs for your child to watch because we’re all greatly influenced by the values in the stories we take in. Discuss your own values in light of the entertainment choices you enjoy together.
- Expose your child to Gospel stories. Get a children’s Bible and read from it together.
- Rituals and worship are powerful shapers of conscience and consciousness. Worship together regularly and share how praying together helps you follow Jesus’ way.
- Encourage your child to listen for the still, small voice within that is God.