Forming conscience helps make choices - Catholic Courier

Forming conscience helps make choices

ROCHESTER — The dozen young adults who gathered in the back room of Johnny’s Irish Pub in late November already knew that young adulthood is rife with complicated, life-changing decisions.

“Who should I marry?” “How will I make a living?” “Where will I live?”

Those are just a few of the weighty decisions they and many other young adults wrestle with on a daily basis. Looking for answers, they turned to Jamie Fazio, Catholic campus minister at Nazareth College in Pittsford, who tackled that topic when he spoke at a Nov. 28 Theology on Tap session titled “Is That Your Final Answer? Practical Ways to Make Monumental Decisions.”

Preparation for those decisions starts long before you meet that potential Mr. or Mrs. Right, start combing the classified ads on, or look for a new place to call home, according to Fazio. Instead, he said, this preparation begins when you begin the lifelong process of conscience formation.

“Getting in touch with conscience is a journey. What is conscience?” he asked. “Don’t think of Jiminy Cricket. It is part of us where God, the community and who we are meet.”

Conscience is not a feeling, but rather a way of life, Fazio added. Conscience is the way a person lives and interacts with God, the community and the world, and it’s constantly evolving as a result of discernment and reflection. Following your conscience means making a decision based on who you think you are, who you’re called to become and how that decision will affect those around you, he said.

When faced with a tough decision, it can be helpful to reflect on previous decisions you’ve made. Each choice you make will influence future decisions, so it might be helpful to consider which choice fits most in line with your past actions and with who you are, Fazio said.

Reflecting on these things may not always help someone reach an obvious conclusion, so there are other places people can turn for help, he added. Saints, he noted, can be a great resource at times like this.

“These are ordinary people who once lived, who suffered, who had to make decisions, who sinned and screwed up, but they did amazing things,” Fazio said.

While many of these saints lived a long time ago in a very different society, we still can incorporate some of their insights into our own lives today, he said. Remembering the life of St. Francis, for example, helps Fazio to always think about how his actions and decisions will affect the poor and marginalized. Relatives and friends also can be good resources, said Fazio, noting that thinking of his grandmother always reminds him to consider the way his decisions will affect his loved ones.

The church itself also can be a good place to turn for insight in times of indecision, he said, as bishops often produce pastoral letters and publicize their positions on controversial matters. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Web site,, is a good place to look for information, Fazio said, as is the Vatican Web site, No single church teaching can ever fully account for every situation a Catholic may find himself or herself in, he noted, but church teachings often provide a good place to start thinking about the decision.

Always remember that no matter how much you study and reflect before making a decision, as a human you’re probably going to make your share of bad decisions, Fazio said. Know that Christ and the community are with you when you make your decisions, he said, and that God always is ready to reconcile and embrace rather than judge.

When all else fails and you don’t know what to do, don’t forget about the simple power of prayer, he added.

“When you’re all done doing all this and you find yourself in a situation where you have to make a decision, enter into prayer, trust yourself and listen to the voice of God that speaks within you,” he said.

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