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I sense a certain discouragement in myself and in others in the face of the state of our nation, our Church and our world. The coarseness and partisanship in the public life of our nation, the scandal and anger in the face of the allegations and experiences of sexual abuse by clergy in our Church and the widespread violence and suffering among so many peoples of our world beg the question: What is a faithful Catholic to do?

Pope Francis addresses this concern in his wonderful pastoral letter entitled “The Joy of the Gospel”. Here are some powerful comments from his letter that may shed some light on this situation:

“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world.”

“Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of ‘charity alla carte’ or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in the world. To the extent that God reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society. We are seeking God’s kingdom.”

“No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without the right to offer an opinion on events affecting society…An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”

“People of every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.’“

In this last sentence, Pope Francis is quoting the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in their document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”. That document is issued every four years as a help for American Catholics who are examining their consciences and preparing to vote. In doing so, Pope Francis indicates that voting is not optional but is, in fact, a moral responsibility. On Monday October 29th at 1:30PM and at 6:30PM, I will offer a presentation about how we might prepare to exercise this moral responsibility on November 6. Voting is one important way that we as faithful Catholics help to bring about the Kingdom/Reign of God in our world. As Catholics, we have something important to bring to the public conversation in our nation about the issues facing us today. Please join me on October 29th at one of the sessions to explore this matter together in the light of our Catholic faith.
- Father Joe