Open doors, open hearts

As someone who returned – albeit reluctantly – to church almost 30 years ago, I am very much inspired by being welcomed. Nervous to return and fearful of being scolded, I found nothing but open doors and open hearts. It is a privilege to be that welcoming presence today. Honestly, I hear so many stories that astonish me because they are about being unwelcome in church. Like a family, we are meant to hold space and work towards unity, but how can you do that if people cannot get in the door? And shouldn’t we be holding the door open and looking for people to come in? In fact, we should get out of the door and into the world, if you ask me.

Earlier I read an article about Pope Francis written by Philip Pullella for Reuters. It focused on the potential for schism, particularly here in the United States. The article can be found here. These lines in particular struck me:

“When you see Christians, bishops, priests, who are rigid, behind that there are problems and an unhealthy way of looking at the Gospel,” Francis said. “So I think we have to be gentle with people who are tempted by these attacks because they are going through problems. We have to accompany them with tenderness.” 

Accompany them with tenderness – he means everyone who is struggling. Honestly – who is not struggling at some point? Ironically, as I write this on the 14th, I consider the Exultation of the Cross that we celebrated today. To celebrate this day is to remember that everyone is bearing crosses, crosses we cannot even imagine. Jesus calls us to help them bear those crosses, not to put more nails in them.

All of this led me back to my post about primacy of conscience the other day. In discussing it with a reader, I asked if they had ever listened to the Francis Effect podcast, because the most recent episode addressed politics head on. This is the first episode of the new season and in addition to hosts Daniel P. Horan, OFM, and David Dault, Heidi Schlumpf who is the editor of the National Catholic Reporter now joins the line up. They each bring so much depth, wisdom, and actual knowledge to the podcast, and I look forward to what’s next.

They are off to a good start with this one and I recommend it highly. There is clear canonical advice about how Catholics can vote; I especially liked that as he went through said advice, Fr. Dan clearly spoke about how these words came from then Cardinal Ratzinger who was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In other words, he did not take such things lightly, but he emphasized how one might find themselves voting for a candidate who supported one evil, but with conditions. His words specifically state:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons. (The Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in public life can be accessed here at the Vatican website.)

The important thing is to understand issues, to pray and discern so that one is able to cast a vote in good conscience.

Church should not be an ideological refuge or prison, but as Pope Francis once noted, a field hospital. May we all find places of welcome, especially during this time of particular challenges – fires, floods, hurricanes, Covid-19, the election, and more distract and distress us. Let us turn to Christ and to one another in humility, hope, and peace.

Get out the vote!

keep-calm-and-go-vote-1920-1080To all of my readers in the US – please go and vote today. It does not matter if your only local elections are for dog catcher and coroner. Our votes always matter. I believe that local elections are what truly matters anyway… change (or lack of it) starts in town councils, school board elections, county elections, state, and so forth. As Americans we tend to get all fired up in the two years prior to a presidential election and apathetic (or smug) during the other two years.

Think of voting as an exercise. The more you do it, the more likely you are to do it. Think your vote does not count? Think again, it does.

Not sure of the issues? Check independent resources such as The League of Women Voters is a good one. You can find your local league easily to learn about local issues. Follow the candidates; if they are already in office, check their voting records and positions. And whatever you do, whatever your partisan preference is, don’t use cable television as a way of feeling too informed. I don’t care if you watch Fox News or MSNBC, they each have their own agenda. Watch it, but press into more independent resources to learn. Newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post are good examples. I’m not going to link to all these sources, you know how to find them.

I think that we can all agree that Facebook and Twitter have their limitations in the matter of influencing elections… enough about that.

Many of us are overburdened, overextended, stretched to our limits. A lot of people count on that to make sure we do not raise our voices and our power as voters in a democracy.  When I get home tonight and realize that I forgot to vote I might think, “no way am going out again, I’m too tired!” And then I remember that there are people who walk for days in other parts of the world, just to cast one ballot. Or that people have died risking their lives to make democracy real in other places. And that people have died to for THIS democracy. How does one not get up and go vote after that?

So please – go vote today. And if you are not registered, tomorrow would be a good time to go and get registered. It is a privilege, let us not waste it. Our future depends upon it. Especially in off years like this one.