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Prayer should be at foundation of election decisions

It's an election year, and because of it, Catholics have a great opportunity to do two things. The first is to learn and share our church's social doctrines that help guide our civic responsibilities and rights. The second is to show that while we may disagree about this or that policy, we do all things in charity.

The way Pope Benedict XVI would have us approach issues is with charity in truth. His 2009 encyclical titled "Charity in Truth" asked Catholics to understand that there is a Catholic social teaching to which we should pay attention, i.e. truth, and that we should allow Christ's love to guide us in applying it, i.e. charity.

Therefore, Christian charity and Christian teaching should be at the forefront of our hearts and minds this year. This is no easy task. Emotions invariably flare when talking about politics. But Holy Mother Church reminds her children there is a Christian way, and this way starts with sincere and quiet prayer.

The Holy Father ended his 2009 encyclical by saying, "Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, [charity in truth], from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us." Every Christian endeavor must start and end with prayer and discernment. So we should start to pray for the grace to see and to judge and to act well on Election Day, because wisdom is not something produced by us but given.

I think everyone can agree that this year's elections are extremely important. There are surely one or two issues that are dearest to our hearts. In light of that, what is an extra rosary here and there or the occasional fast? The Serenity Prayer asks God to "grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference." So let's pray for the wisdom.

Jesus told us that apart from him we can do nothing. (Jn. 15:5) But he also told us that he would be with us "to the close of the age." (Mt 28:20) I take that to mean that before we are a conservative or a liberal, a Republican or Democrat we have to be a Christian who, in love with Jesus, asks for the wisdom to live "charity in truth."

Over the next few months, I will be writing briefly about what the church teaches. I'll be using the document from the U.S. Bishops titled "Faithful Citizenship" as my guide. In this way, I hope to provide some information about the social doctrine. But the intellectual information is not enough. For if this election is as important as everyone says it is, then we need to prepare ourselves intellectually and spiritually. We need to approach each issue and each candidate with the consistency of Christian love, which can only come through prayer.

Omar Gutierrez is the manager of the Archdiocesan Office of Missions and Justice. Contact him at fgutierrez@archomaha.org.

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