"Big Four" Highlights


The Good

Letter #2 to my teenage son during winter break

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

Dear Stephen,

Yesterday I wrote about TIME. Today, I will write about THE GOOD.

The most basic tenet of moral theology is that we must choose the good and avoid what is evil. Easy to say, but what is the good and how do we know it? Is the good anything that makes me feel good? Feelings are important and can lead me in the right direction, except when they don’t. I may feel good staying in bed when I should go to work, but the true good in this situation is to push against my feelings and get up – to meet my obligations, to earn money, to keep my job, to support and do good for the family.

I think you can apply this to getting up for school each morning. You are the epitome of a soul struggling between the feel-good warmth of the bed and the real good of getting up to do what you know you should do.

The first measure of the good is the Ten Commandments. Anything that would violate the Commandments is not good, no matter how good it may feel to do it. Next we have the precepts of the Church – you learned them in seventh grade. There are only five, and following them will make for a good and happy life:

1. Attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

2. Confess your sins at least once a year.

3. Receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.

4. Observe the days of fasting and abstinence – you are now 14 and must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the Fridays of Lent.

5. Provide for the needs of the Church – right now this means being the good and reliable altar boy that you are.

Add to these the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and you have a well-rounded notion of what you should do and not do to live a good life on earth and set your steps in the direction of that ultimate Good – God Himself in heaven. All of these teachings should inform our idea of the good, and form our conscience, so that we are better able to recognize, pursue and accept the good in every situation. What other organization gives you such guidance, like a road map or GPS for the soul? The Catholic Church has your greatest good in mind. Never believe anyone who tells you the Church wants to limit your freedom. The Church wants you to be free of sin and the blindness that it brings.

But it’s not always easy to see and choose the good. Life can get complicated. Evil often presents itself as a good for me now. We get confused, temptation beckons, we forget what we know to be good and ignore our conscience. Or we really try to do good but fail through human frailty, lack of attention, imperfect knowledge or plain old bad judgment and honest mistakes. Yes, we are far from perfect and fall short. The Greek word used in the New Testament for sin is άρμαρτία (harmartia), which means missing the mark.

Yet we have the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation). What are the steps to make a good Confession? You learned this in second grade. First, find out my sins (examination of conscience). Second, be sorry for my sins (contrition). Third, confess my sins to a priest (confession). Fourth, resolve to avoid this sin again (amendment). Fifth, say or do the penance the priest gives me (satisfaction).

We confess, learn from our mistakes, and start anew with God’s great grace. We pray for guidance. God, help me in this struggle, help me face this problem, lift me up in my weakness and fear. Lead me, Lord, to know the good and choose what is right. The ultimate good is not a concept or a commandment or a precept; it is God Himself.

Use your time to choose the good today.

(Read Letter #1. Next Friday, the topic will be TRUTH.)