A few weeks ago I talked about how frustratingly hopeless it feels to be a Catholic citizen in the face of brazenly secular governments. This week I thought I’d try to look at what things we can do as Catholics to keep hope, and/or at least keep ourselves from falling into despair when it comes to the public square. And it will prove to be a big challenge especially with this upcoming American presidential season and the, ahem, dubious candidates in the fore. Critically fundamental issues like, abortion, immigration, religious freedom, a supreme court nomination are all part of the equation, but when our vote feels like it counts for little and our sanity begins to suffer it’s helpful to take positive steps for helping ourselves, our families and communities, and our country.
We also may have to come to grips with the fact that politics and the public square as it currently exists probably will not be visibly changed by our efforts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a moral duty towards our country, our fellow citizens, our children, and our own consciences to pray, write, and work in the public square. Our efforts may go unseen and unheard by those in power and by our society, but our call as Catholics is not to abandon the world but to work for a better one in all aspects of life.
Here’s a quick look at a few basic things that can help us stay sane while the political world crumbles:
Prayer is the Most Effective Means of Change
Obviously I’ve got to mention prayer first. But ironically this is usually the step that I ignore till last, so do I as I say, not as I fail to do!
As someone who has always been interested in politics and passionate about the issues, I’ve had plenty of opportunity for frustration, anxiety, and outrage over politics in my country over the last year. I remember election nights going to bed enraged at democracy and anxious over the future for my children. But can I change anything or help my anxiety more effectively than through prayer? In all honesty, no I can’t.
I’ve started handing over whatever situation, issue, law, or government party causes me anxiety back over to the Lord. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but honestly it’s helped me avoid a lot of undue stress and worry. Just offering it all up to Christ at the foot of the cross, and begging his Divine Mercy is an important step.
Praying for peace for the world and my country is also something I’ve added to my daily petitions during morning prayer. And of course, this would be a great intention for your daily rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. If you’re the hardcore monastic type, prayer and fasting would probably be amazing to offer for the all the evil that goes down in politics today. Our Catholic faith offers a myriad of prayer varieties like adoration, holy hours, offering up the Mass, novenas, etc that we really only need to pick what we do most often to add a really effective means of prayer and grace into our lives and the world.
Don’t Stick Your Head in the Sand
I don’t want to point fingers, and I know we all hate politics to one degree or another, but we really can’t afford to simply stick our heads in the sand when it comes to the news. We’ve got a real moral obligation to our communities and country to uphold our civic duties as best we can. This means that we need to speak out and do as much as we can when there are seriously bad political ideas being floated around, or debated in legislatures. I don’t want to trot out the old “if good men do nothing” quote, but that really is the reality in the times we live in.
We can’t afford to be ignorant of party policies, Church teachings, and what is happening on a local, national, and global level. As much as it would be great to just hang out in our local communities, never turn on a tv, and just head to church and back every week we’re called to more as Catholics. We need to be educated in the issues, history, and how our governments work so that we can stand up and defend truth and morality. Because the power behind those who want to dismantle the moral fabric of our society know how to chisel and chip away at things little by little to erode once solid foundations of moral and democratic societies. We’ve already seen great damage done in recent years, we don’t have the option of letting other people worry about these things.
Work on the Local Level
It can be downright scary, daunting, and hard to think about change on a national level. Even speaking to our elected representatives can feel useless since their political stripes may be openly hostile to our faith. By the time big issues reach the national forefront there has been a lot of local groundwork done, so when the local issues arise around you make sure you speak out.
If the local school boards are introducing new gender guidelines, know what’s going on and make sure to speak out the Church’s teaching. If you can help your town or city provide better services on a local level, be it through voting or campaigning for someone who values good leadership and integrity, or volunteering through local groups, that’s where the biggest difference can be made.
If you have state or provincial issues that are important on a moral level then write letters and make calls. Even if you know you are part of the unpopular minority when it comes to a critical issue of morality, it is our moral obligation to at the very least, make our views known to our elected representatives. It can be a hassle, but calling and writing about issues like doctor-assisted suicide, educational guidelines, and others is really our duty in as citizens of a democracy and as Catholics.
Work for Peace in Your Own Heart and Family
It can feel pretty hopeless for us Catholics as elections go horribly awry, reprehensible ideas become popular, and governing parties become openly hostile to faith. There are already immoral laws in our country, and more will probably come. But we cannot let this disturb our peace. It’s a difficult call, but many saints before us have proved that no matter how bad the government Christ’s peace conquers all.
Begin by loving your own family. If we love those closest to us as best we can we’re building peace, even if we can’t see the difference it makes right now. If we teach our children the faith we are passing on a moral belief system that has built western civilization, democracy, and personal freedom. We are passing on values that matter, even if our culture say they don’t.
It’s often disheartening to think we’re only impacting our own families, and hard to see the eternal value in loving those around us according to our vocations. But indeed our love has eternal consequences, and ripples out much farther in our world than is visible to our eyes. We know that the Body of Christ reaches every human heart and that as we offer our prayers and works we help spread God’s mercy.
The biggest difference we make will always be within our own homes and our own hearts. We may lose heart in the human workings of our political systems, we may be anxious about upcoming elections and possible presidents, but we cannot let that rob us of the love, peace, and true joy that Christ and the Church calls us to live.