Six steps to faithful citizenship
April 16, 2020
Our world and lives are changing by the hour, it seems. Every day we get news of more events cancelled and plans changed. But as I write this, our May 12 primary elections in Nebraska are still scheduled (with a few adjustments).
Even during the coronavirus crisis, we are called to be active and faithful citizens. In their statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. Catholic bishops remind us about the call to participate in political life. “In the Catholic tradition,” they write, “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (no. 13).
Since engaging in political life can be daunting, here are six simple steps to get you started:
- Pray for policymakers and candidates. St. Paul tells us, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). While upcoming elections and politics can produce stress and worry, we know our hearts will not be troubled if they are rooted in prayer. And in these difficult times, our policymakers and candidates need our sincere and faithful prayers.
- Read “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The bishops have written a clear, accessible document for us to understand our political responsibility as Catholics. As Pope Francis said, “We need to participate for the common good …. Good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.” Find the document and shorter summaries at www.necatholic.org.
- Learn about a new issue. With more time at home with our families, we have the chance to dive deeper into an aspect of church teaching we have always wondered about. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a wonderful resource with a helpful index to find topics of interest (find it online at www.usccb.org). Archbishop George J. Lucas’ podcast, The Shepherd’s Voice, explores many interesting and relevant topics (see archomaha.org/podcast/). Also, visit www.usccb.org for resources on any number of issues including religious liberty, marriage and family, and care for creation.
- Engage in civil dialogue. As even more of our daily communication is moving to social media, phone calls and text messages, we might find it difficult to have honest and respectful discussions about local and national politics. Instead of avoiding them altogether, keep in mind that engaging in civil dialogue can help us create a space to model love for our neighbors and respect for the dignity of each person. Remember to listen and seek to understand before being understood. Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand someone else’s position, then share yours with charity and truth.
- Find out where candidates stand on the issues. Policymakers and those who govern make decisions that have a huge impact on our communities, our state and our country. It’s important to know where they stand on the issues that matter most to you. If a candidate contacts you, be prepared with several questions for them to answer, and do not hesitate to push for clear answers to your questions. And take time to look up voter guides from organizations you trust – like the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Look forward to candidate responses to the NCC’s voter guide to be published in the next issue of the Catholic Voice and at NebraskaCatholicVoter.com.
- Vote in the May 12 primary. Don’t wait until the general election in November to make your vote count. The primaries are also an important step in the democratic process. Because of the pandemic, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is asking us to vote in the primary election by mail-in ballot. Be sure to submit your application by May 1 (find the application at sos.nebraska.gov/elections/early-voting). If you have young children at home, this is a great way to show them you see voting as a priority.
While we are in the midst of great uncertainty and many changes to our daily lives, remember we still have the choice to love God and our neighbor, to feed our souls and minds, and to engage in faithful citizenship. As always, feel free to contact the Nebraska Catholic Conference with any questions at 402-477-7517 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at email@example.com.