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Faithful Citizenship Decision 2016

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We are approximately 3 weeks away from what is arguably the most intense election cycle our country has ever dealt with. The intensity has cause divisions for some within their families, amongst their friends and within the workplace. I have seen social media bullying and name-calling over candidates and election issues. Many people I know, including many Catholics, and including myself, feel an internal, anxious struggle as we form our conscience surrounding the issues and the candidates. And so before I even touch the subject of faithful citizenship and politics, I ask you to take a moment to quiet your mind, take a deep breath, and pray:

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city, state, and country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
Prayer Before An Election, US Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sent Into the World

As Jesus Christ the Son was sent into the world by God the Father, so Christ sends us into the world (John 17:18). Christ has sent us to share God and to love and care for our neighbor. And so in a nation such as the United States, where we are blessed with the opportunity to have a voice in politics, we have a responsibility to live our Catholic faith at all times, including politics.

Living our faith is difficult in many circumstances and situations in our lives, as our sinful human nature causes us to struggle. Yet we find our strength in Christ. We find ourselves nourished by His Church and we become empowered by the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation to form our consciences to be strong Catholics living in the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: [The] conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings” (CCC #1783).

And it is with these well-formed consciences that we are called to make decisions in the world, including in politics. Because when “Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them” (CCC #1786).

To help us form our consciences, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revised their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, in November 2015. This 37-page document is meant to assist us in discerning our political decisions as a teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics in the United States. It is meant not to tell us who to vote for. It is meant to aid us in forming our consciences in accordance with God’s Truth. This document has been updated to include Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, and Pope Francis’ encyclicals, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’, as well as to address recent domestic and foreign policies such as abortion, physician assisted suicide, the redefinition of marriage, ecological and environmental concerns, deadly attacks on Christians and religious minorities, religious freedom, economic policies, immigration and the refugee crisis and wars, terror and violence.

Sometimes people question if it’s appropriate for the Church to play a role in politics. However, because the Church is obligated to care for Her people, She has an obligation to teach and share moral truths that shape us in our entirety, not just the life we live when we are on parish property. Our entire selves, and at all times.

 

Political Relativism vs. Faithful Citizenship

We live in a relativistic society that tells us that ‘what is right for you is right for you and what is right for me is right for me, and that’s all okay because there’s nothing that’s absolutely right.’ 

This mindset carries over into specific political issues, even for Catholics, leading us to give more weight to some political issues over others. Except that as Catholics, we know that this mindset often causes the replacement of Truth with opinion. It becomes personal preferences swayed by our sinful nature instead of allowing ourselves to make morally conscious decisions in accordance with our faith. And as People of God we have “…the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He [man] must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’ ” (CCC #1782).

Politically, we are sometimes confronted with situations in which making a moral decision is difficult, even with a well-formed conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has guidelines to help us in these situations too:

      Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision       
      difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God
      expressed in divine law. To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the
      signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the
      help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts. Some rules apply in every case:
            —One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
            —the Golden Rule: “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
            —charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience: “Thus             
                  sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ.”
      Therefore “it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble.”
      #1787-1789

And from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States:

      Aided by the virtue of prudence in the exercise of well-formed consciences, Catholics are called to             
      make practical judgments regarding good and evil choices in the political arena. There are some
      things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible
      with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to
      the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be
      rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned… It is a mistake with grave
      moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of
      individual choice… The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods
      that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected… St. Pope John             
      Paul II explained the importance of being true to fundamental Church teachings: ‘Above all, the
      common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights— for example, the right to health,
      to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and
      fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum
      determination’ (Christifideles Laici, no. 38).

      #21, 22, 25, 26

Living our faith as Catholics and living in the world are not easy. And as we make our decisions for the November 2016 election, as we are called to do for all things, we must prayerfully discern our voting decisions. And so to close, I ask you to pray daily with me and many others, for all our currently elected officials, candidates for office in November and ballot issues to be voted on.

 

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Interested in videos or audio on Faithful Citizenship? Looking for a novena for the election? Need materials to discuss the election and Faithful Citizenship with children, teens or other adults? Visit the USCCB Faithful Citizenship website.

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7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 16: Prayer Intentions

The most important thing we can do as Catholics is pray. I’m sure we have all seen examples of the amazing power of prayer in our lives or the lives of others. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the intentions we Catholic Sistas currently have high on our list. We invite you to pray with us on many of these matters and to add your own intentions in the comments or to our Prayer Requests page. Here are our seven high-priority prayer intentions, in no particular order.

–1–

40 Days of Prayer for Conscience

There are two very pressing, current event prayer requests that are on all the Sistas’ minds. The first of these is the HHS Mandate that will go into effect August 1, 2013, which will force institutions and businesses that morally object to contraceptives and abortion to provide these things to all employees. This includes Catholic dioceses, schools, and hospitals. We’re praying our bishops will stay strong against the mandate and not be bullied into providing goods and services that our faith teaches are wrong. We hope you’re joining us for this 40 Days for Conscience Prayer Campaign that began July 1. We need everyone to pray. Follow our Facebook fan page to get the daily prayers.

Today’s prayer:

 

–2–

The Abortion Bill in Texas

The second pressing, current event on all our minds is the abortion bill in Texas, that would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks gestation. We happen to have several Sistas in Texas and many are in the Austin area. We are praying for their safety as they attend sessions at their state capitol, as well as praying for passage of this bill. To learn more, please check out these links and please join your prayers with ours.

Protect Babies and Women — Stand with Pro-Life Texas by Birgit

For Pro-Choicers: What Does the Texas Bill REALLY Say by Kerri

Word-FILLED Wednesday: They Chanted Hail Satan by Martina

–3–

CS Prayer Requests: General Intentions, Homeward Bound, Teardrops, Heavenly Ambassadors

If you haven’t noticed, at the top of our page there is a link titled, “Prayer Requests.” Click on that link and it will bring you to a form where you can submit a prayer request for all of us to pray for. We keep four lists and post them in our private group for our members to pray over. These intentions include:

General Intentions: Anything on your heart

Homeward Bound: For Christian friends and family we’d like to see come home to the Catholic Church

Teardrops: For those who have lapsed from the Catholic faith

Heavenly Ambassadors: For children who have returned to our Heavenly Father through miscarriage, stillbirth, or death at any age.

 –4–

Marriage

Praying for our marriages and those of our friends is always high on the priority list for us. Even those who aren’t married are praying for their future husbands. Praying for marriages (plural) in a much broader sense has taken on much more meaning of late due to the recent Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. Marriage is under attack in our country and we need to pray. We even had a recent prayer campaign for sacred matrimony in anticipation of the attacks on marriage we were all feeling. We have a great resource list here and you can see our prayer intentions here. Please pray for our individual marriages, those of friends and family, and for the strengthening of all marriages between one man and one woman.

–5–

All Priests and Religious

Pray for our priests and religious. They need our prayers! They are always in our prayers. Our priests have difficult jobs and both priests and religious live a very counter-cultural lives. They need our prayers to stay strong in their vocations. We also need to continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Please add your prayers to ours and don’t neglect this important intention.

 –6–

Our Pope

The Pope always has the prayers of the Catholic Sistas. We hope he has your prayers too. Pray for our Pope to be a light to the world, to always be open to the Holy Spirit, and to keep the Church strong and united.

 –7–

Holy Mother Church

It goes without saying that praying for Holy Mother Church is on all our prayer lists. We hope it is on yours, too. As the Church experiences more attacks across the world, we must pray for strength for all Her people.

Thanks to Jen F. for hosting the weekly Quick Takes. Check out her blog, Conversion Diary, for more Quick Takes posts from across the blogosphere.