Each year, at the beginning of summer, our pastors remind us that even if you go away on vacation, you never take a vacation from being Catholic. We are still required to go to Mass on Sunday, even if we are traveling. We still need to act like people guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ during the three months we take time off to rest and share time with our families.
This summer has been so different from others. Maybe we didn’t hear that usual reminder. Now, we are trying to go back to our lives that are still anything but ordinary. So perhaps another reminder would be useful.
Labor Day is behind us. We have seven weeks until the presidential elections. Given the times we live in, sadly, it is safe to predict that the weeks leading to November 3 will be filled with acrimony and political discourse that will be anything but civil. Social media “debates” will multiply and exacerbate accusations and recriminations that characterize the candidates and supporters on the other side of the political spectrum as “evil” or “stupid.” Charity, civility, and compassion won’t be seen in the weeks to come.
Yet, we are still Catholic, and we are still called to act like Christians. In the middle of a polarized, uncivil war of words, we are still called to practice Christian charity and basic civility.
Growing up in a Communist country, I have the sad memories of families divided and friendships destroyed by politics. I remember the character assassination of those who thought differently — the perception that anybody who didn’t share a certain ideology was an enemy or a traitor to their country.
The greatest gift of democracy is that we can disagree without becoming enemies.
Sometimes, you would think we are losing that essential blessing. We tend to believe that anybody who disagrees with us doesn’t understand the issues at hand or is not a good person. Democracy is the acceptance that well-informed, good people could hold different opinions.
As Catholics, even in things we clearly see as evil — abortion and the death penalty are two examples — we are supposed to fight the evil without hating the sinner.
During the next seven weeks, the best contribution we can make to our society is to be good Catholics. That is always true, but now it may be more needed than ever. Our society needs people who can disagree without hatred. America needs citizens that are civil and charitable to one another. Our society’s very fabric is under the stress of a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 of our fellow citizens, an economic crisis that has left millions without work, and racial tensions that have generated protests, and often violence, in many of our cities.
And in the middle of this perfect storm of three simultaneous crises, we are going to have more divisiveness leading up to the election.
We are constantly bombarded from media outlets with stories and columns that portray our society as a battleground between irreconcilable enemies. There are too many people right now who think the other party should not govern the country. Commentators on both sides of the spectrum will explain that a victory by the other side would mean the “end of America” as we know it.
This is a good time to remember things that should be obvious: Family is more important than politics, friendship is more significant than party affiliation.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love,” says St. Francis’ prayer. It would be a good prayer to repeat during the coming weeks.