We are in one of those again, an election year. We are going to be bombarded with more than the usual amount of politics and opinions everywhere we turn. I totally understand that it can be so overwhelming or frustrating that we want to give up on it all. However, we cannot and should not do that! Everything we do as members of our families, communities, and country we do as disciples of Christ. We are called to live and promote the Gospel in every part of our lives, including our public and political lives and even to vote guided by our faith, but also a lot more.
Pope St. John XXIII taught that the Church is the Mother and Teacher of the world. As teacher, she is not shy about proclaiming to everyone in the world what is true and what is good for humanity; as mother, the Church teaches gently and patiently with compassion for the weakest. Because of her role as mother and teacher, the Church feels comfortable speaking out about the policies and choices of leaders and nations.
While she respects that secular governments are, and should be, independent from religious control, the Church is unafraid to tell the world that there are things in the Gospel that are true for everyone, regardless of faith, simply because we are human: that life is sacred, that all men are equal, that work should be able to provide for one’s family, that the defenseless deserve protection, that the poor deserve mercy, that family is the foundation of society, and so many other things. The Church also knows it is her right to condemn ideas and actions that are evil. Good people can disagree and debate questions of how to put these truths into action in our world, and how best to address the needs of our families, communities and governments. Indeed, the Church as mother is proud of her children who try to find needed solutions.
We, as the Church, are called to be mother and teacher, and this starts in our own community. It is motherly care that we show when we volunteer or donate to charity; it is the boldness of a teacher that leads us, guided by our faith, to discuss and vote on this or that ballot question or primary.
On the state and national level, it is motherly concern that leads us to ask questions of our leaders about their plans for the future and the quality of their policies; it is a teacher’s boldness that moves us to debate whether this or that candidate is a suitable or even morally acceptable choice for a Catholic voter.
Being mother and teacher applies to national and global questions as well, for example, what to do about refugees displaced from or persecuted in their home countries due to terrorism, drug and sex trafficking? The Church teaches and we believe that these poor people deserve protection, as well as immediate practical help. However, we can debate and disagree about what is the best course of action to help them: What nations should take them in; how they will be cared for; how long they can they stay; who, if anyone, gets priority; how to screen out criminals and terrorists, etc. Good Catholics, good Christians, people of good will may differ on these and many other questions, but it is never an option to ignore the poor who cry out to Heaven.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have the duty and privilege to be the Church, the world’s mother and teacher, in everyday life. If we remain faithful to this mission, even in the face of all the politics and noise, we can reshape our community, country, and world for the better.
-Father Brian Thompson