"Conscience is a dog that does not stop us from passing, but we cannot stop from barking."
- Nicolas de Chamfort, writer (1741-1794)
When I was a kid, I knew a dog like this; she lived down the block from my grandparents. She was a little "yipper" of a Mini Schnauzer named Penny. My sister and I used to take great delight in running back and forth along the sidewalk in front of Penny's yard. Penny would run with us along the chain link fence, jumping and barking and yipping. This mutt couldn't have been more than 6 lbs., yet she thought she was a full grown Rottweiler! Patti and I would continue until we grew weary of the game, after which we'd head back down the block towards Gramma's. Penny's insistent, continuous bark would follow us and go on for at least 5 minutes after we went into the house. We'd think to ourselves, "Jeez does that mutt EVER shut up???"
I am blessed (cursed?) with a very loud and insistent conscience...just like Penny. Regardless of whether I am paying attention to it or not, paying it lip service or not, sneering at it in outright contempt or not, my conscience keeps barking. Like Penny, its bark can't can't cause me to do anything, nor can it stop me from doing anything. It WILL however, run alongside me. It will not stop howling its insistent warning until the intruder is long gone. It will certainly not allow me to ignore it. Whatever I am doing, it will wait behind its chain link fence, ever-vigilant...especially when I am not. It seems that the more annoyed I get at the racket, the more insistent it becomes. When that brand of annoyance sets in is when I really need to be paying attention - what is that dog YAPPING about??? Am I doing something I shouldn't? Most often, the answer is no. Am I setting the stage to be doing something I shouldn't? Ahhh, there's the rub - I can still reasonably rationalize at that point! My conscience is trying to warn me of danger coming up the street.
While Mini Schnauzers are considered fantastic watch dogs, they cannot STOP most danger; they can't fight off most intruders. However, they make their masters aware. They make their masters listen and pay attention, whether they want to or not. I guess that's what any good conscience is supposed to do. Whatever the case, I need to give my conscience a good belly-rub and throw her a Scooby-snack more often. She's always trying to keep me out of trouble.
Free will is a beautiful (if not loud) gift from God.
Daily Mass Readings