By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT’’S WHAT the Pope suggests to the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, indicating the theme of the 2009 World Meeting of Families in Mexico.

To be more precise, the Pope calls on parents to dutifully discharge the indispensable and delicate responsibility of forming their children’s consciences.

“In these times,” he said, “in which it is notable that there is a frequent contradiction between what is professed as belief and concrete ways of living and acting, the next World Meeting of Families proposes to encourage Christian households in the formation of a right moral conscience.”

I consider this papal concern very relevant. Sadly, the awareness of our duty to take care of forming our consciences is vanishing.

Many parents seem afraid to form the consciences of their children, taking care only of their physical and other immediate needs, and leaving them practically out in the cold.

Many parents fail to realize that forming their children’s consciences constitutes the noblest part of their duty to educate their children. It perfects their parenthood.

At best, any awareness of such duty now often comes with a lot of distortions. Like, conscience is just a matter of how one feels or understands things at the moment. One’s feelings and frame of mind become the ultimate guide for his actions.

Aggravating this is the fact that there’s hardly anything done to counter the bad effects of the mainly materialistic and sensual approaches to today’s questions and issues, prevalent everywhere and especially in the media.

Even the news have spins that highlight these values at the expense of the spiritual and supernatural values. You can just imagine what happens in the lifestyle and entertainment sections!

As a consequence, the difference between good and evil, between freedom and licentiousness gets blurred. The sense of sin evaporates.

Children and the young are the most vulnerable, since they are still without the proper criteria to guide them, nor the proper skills and virtues that should accompany them in their growth and development.

We have to understand that our conscience is the most critical aspect of our life. It’s our judgment, like a voice within, enabling us to recognize the moral quality of a concrete act, past, present or future.

It links our actions to our dignity as persons and ultimately as children of God. It integrates the workings of all our faculties to make sure our actions conform to our innate sense of goodness. In short, it conforms our actions to God.

The Christian understanding of man teaches that God is our last end, our supreme good who reveals himself to us in many ways and in his fullness in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man.

The complete and ultimate truth of man is known through Christ who entrusted it to the Church. Our conscience has to apply what it finds in our heart, checking it with the Church’s teaching, before it makes its judgments.

This is because God’s law for us in our actions, the natural moral law, is both written in our hearts and revealed by Christ and now taught by the Church.

Given our natural limitations, plus the effects of our sins, the formation of conscience has to be undertaken continuously by everyone in all levels and aspects of our life.

We need to study the moral law to be on the offensive against ignorance, confusion and error. We also need to develop the virtues to facilitate our inclination to our true good.

These virtues, like humility and prudence, help us to navigate through the antipodes of indifference and rashness, to which we are prone.

The family, the basic unit of society and our first school, should be the first to fulfill this duty. When it is found wanting, higher entities like schools, government, community, Church, etc., should directly pitch in.

Very fundamental in forming consciences within the family is to teach children to use their reason, guiding their emotions and passions. Then children should be taught to reason with faith, so their consciences could make judgments that relate their actions to God.