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Distraction is a poor master…

—from the blog post Connected to What’s Real by Jenny Uebbing whose blog is called Mama Needs Coffee (I especially like the parts/phrases below that I highlighted in red.)

I’m sitting in the silence of the post-bedtime hurricane, surveying the damage of the living room and feeling the tug towards a screen, but choosing often to forgo another episode of such and such, to plug in the phone for the night and walk away.

I can’t say that those nights are particularly exciting, or even productive, but there is a peaceful stillness to the way a brain naturally shuts down, maybe after a bath or a half hour with a book or a newspaper. Or maybe just in quiet, companionable silence mingled with conversation with my husband.

I don’t want to miss my life because I’m trying to escape from it. I want to lean into the hard, boring, painful parts and find out what He has for me there. Or I want to curl into a ball and cry out to Him that I can’t handle the pain, that I need Him to fix it, to answer me.

But I don’t want to be distracted from it. That’s not good enough any more.

Entertained sometimes? Sure. I still want that. But want to be the one to make that call.

I don’t want my default setting to be “numb, zoned, consumed, detached.” I’m too aware of the sharp pains and pleasures now of real life, and that every minute I spend disconnected from it is a gradual atrophy of the muscles I need in order to stay in the present when the going gets tough. Motherhood is hard enough when I’m not handicapping myself by training my attention span back down to that of my very sanguine 6-year-old’s. Distraction is a poor master but a good occasional servant. I don’t need to constantly employ it in the checkout line or the car. Or when I’m in pain and tempted to turn away from real life.

It’s not cut and dry, and I’m not disavowing technology or digital engagement. But there is peace and clarity in pulling back, in assessing and evaluating and making conscious and intentional decisions about how this short time on earth is spent, and what it is spent on.

Sometimes I’ve joked in the past that I’m going to have to answer to God one day for every hour spent on Facebook. And while it was said tongue in cheek, that’s actually a terrifying prospect. Not that I used social media, per se, but how much time was spent there, and doing what.

The tools are neutral. Our actions with them are not. I don’t want to get busted having buried the talent.

Not because of any servile fear of God, but because what a waste. I wonder, when I think about Mother Teresa’s now-famed schedule, would she have found time to build a platform and grow a brand and get the MCs online, even if it would have been great for their fundraising efforts?

And I do sincerely wonder this. We have few saints to pattern our behavior after in this new digital frontier. I have a hunch that she’d probably err on the side of social media minimalism, just because she had such insight into matters of the heart. She’s a good saint, I think, to petition for prayers in this landscape of human loneliness and discontent. I think she would be happy to become a sort of patroness against isolation and loneliness. I think she’d like that a lot.

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St. Basil, St. Augustine, and Cardinal Newman’s Toast to Conscience and the Pope

[Saint] Basil knows that love consists in keeping the commandments. for this reason, the spark of love, which has been put into us by the Creator, means this: “We have received interiorly beforehand the capacity and disposition for observing all divine commandments … These are not something imposed from without.” Referring everything back to its simple core, Augustine adds, “We could never judge that one thing is better than another, if a basic understanding of the good had not already been instilled in us.”

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One can comprehend the primacy of the pope and its correlation to Christian conscience only in this connection. The true sense of the teaching authority of the pope consists in his being the advocate of the Christian memory. The pope does not impose from without. Rather, he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it. For this reason the toast to conscience indeed must precede the toast to the pope, because without conscience there would not be a papacy. All power that the papacy has is power of conscience. It is service to the double memory on which the faith is based—and which again and again must be purified, expanded, and defended against the destruction of memory that is threatened by a subjectivity forgetful of its own foundation, as well as by the pressures of social and cultural conformity.

—from On Conscience, a collection of two essays by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVII) – from the first essay Conscience and Truth which was the keynote address of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on “Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation,” February 1991

on conscience

Also Related:

For Newman, conscience is not the same as one’s personal opinions about essential Catholic beliefs. Indeed, in his 1870 letter, he warned against “counterfeit” forms of conscience that “boast of being above all religions and to be the impartial critic of each of them.” Instead, he offered this definition: “[Conscience] is a messenger from [God], who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.”

For a Catholic, conscience and essential Church teaching should operate together. As such, the conscience of a Catholic can never require a person to do what is wrong, contrary to the faith, or impossible.

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In short, Newman’s thought reduced to a bumper sticker should read: “Conscience first; the Pope second — in everything that’s not his proper business.”

—from the article What is right? My conscience or the Church? by Father Michael Kerper in Parable Magazine, July/August 2011

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An Inordinate Love of Any Sum

The sin of covetousness includes therefore both the intention one has in acquiring the goods of this world and the manner of acquiring them. It is not the love of an excessive sum which makes it wrong, but an inordinate love of any sum.

—from Victory Over Vice by Venerable Fulton Sheen, Ch. 7 – The Seventh Word: Covetousness

victory

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On Guilt

[T]he feelings of guilt, the capacity to recognize guilt, belongs essentially to the spiritual make-up of man. […] It is as necessary for man as the physical pain that signifies disturbances of normal body functioning. Whoever is no longer capable of perceiving guilt is spiritually ill…

—from On Conscience, a collection of two essays by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVII) – from the first essay Conscience and Truth which was the keynote address of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on “Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation,” February 1991

on conscience

 

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Cheerleaders for Jesus

We will never find salvation in a political party and we should be apologists and uncritical cheerleaders for no one but Jesus Christ.

—from the blog post Trump and Hilary, models of fallen human nature by Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble

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A man of conscience is…

I would say, when we are speaking of a man of conscience, we mean one who looks at things this way. A man of conscience is one who never acquires tolerance, well-being, success, public standing, and approval on the part of prevailing opinion at the expense of truth.

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Thus, two standards become apparent for ascertaining the presence of a real voice of conscience. First, conscience is not identical to personal wishes and taste. Second, conscience cannot be reduced to social advantage, to group consensus, or to the demands of political and social power.

—from On Conscience, a collection of two essays by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVII) – from the first essay Conscience and Truth which was the keynote address of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on “Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation,” February 1991

on conscience

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The Capability of Man to Perceive the “Should”

When the only thing that determines what is morally right is one’s individual, subjective judgment, then there is no overarching moral truth to which all are bound. In such a situation, those who have the greatest power can impose their positions on other, unchecked by any authority apart from themselves. Indeed, such an understanding of the infallibility of a subjective conscience would free from guilt, for example, even those who had committed unspeakable atrocities….

—from the Foreword by John M. Haas of The National Catholic Bioethics Center

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What characterizes man as man is not that he asks about the “can” but about the “should,” and that he opens himself to the voice and demands of truth.

It seems to me that this was the final meaning of the Socratic search, and it is the profoundest element in the witness of all martyrs. They attest to the fact that man’s capacity for truth is a limit on all power and a guarantee of man’s likeness to God. It is precisely in this way that the martyrs are the great witnesses of conscience, of that capability given to man to perceive the “should” beyond the “can” and thereby render possible real progress, real ascent.

—from On Conscience, a collection of two essays by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVII) – from the first essay Conscience and Truth which was the keynote address of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on “Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation,” February 1991

on conscience