By Fran Lavelle
If you are like me, you are not only fatigued by the endless cycle of retail-driven holiday hysteria (yes, I said it, it is unnatural to see Easter bunnies before Epiphany) but I am also fatigued by the endless political news cycle that slings and flings divisive prose faster than a moth to a light bulb at night. I must admit I have not always felt this way about politics. It’s time for confession, well not exactly confession rather an exercise in transparency.
My first love was politics. From an early age I showed great interest in politics and the political process. When it came time to declare a major in college I had several fields that interested me, but I chose political science because, well, it was my first love after all. My political career was off to a great start. By the age of 26 I was working in Washington D.C. as a lobbyist for the American Association of Port Authorities and handled issues of international transportation and trade. Going to Capitol Hill to sit in on hearings, contributing testimony that resides at the Library of Congress, and watching our democracy live up to the ideals of our founding fathers was a wonderful experience.
In 1993, my Dad had a fatal heart attack and in the months and few years after that defining event I started searching for greater meaning in my life. In 1996, I launched my official entrance into ministry, leaving behind the force that had driven my life up until that time.
I have kept a reasonable interest in politics over the years, as all citizens should. I recognize that my passion for democratic governance – not necessarily partisan politics – will be something that I will always value. I credit my years in Washington for helping form the passion that I now have for ministry. But let’s face it folks, the political landscape as we now know it is less than ideal and even less effective. If you find yourself wanting to shy away from anything that looks like the political process, I completely understand. There’s an old saying that laws are like sausages, it is better not to see either of them being made. Regrettably, turning away from the problem does not make it go away.
Apathy is a lot like a cozy comforter. When enough of us get wrapped up in it, we normalize it. As Catholics we cannot allow apathy to get in the way of effectively living out our faith and proclaiming the gospel values set forth by Jesus. These are not liberal values or conservative values; they are rooted in our faith of both the Old and New Testament and have been affirmed and promoted for centuries.
As Catholics we are called to advocate for the seven principals of Catholic Social Teaching. They are:
Life and dignity of the human person —”The good Samaritan recognized the dignity in the other and cared for his life.” Luke 10:25-37;
Call to family, community and participation — “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12-17;
Rights and responsibilities –“Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” Matthew 25: 31-46;
Option for the poor and vulnerable — “True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed.” Isaiah 58:5-7;
Dignity of work and the rights of workers — “All workers should be paid a just and living wage” Matthew 20:1-16;
Solidarity — “Above all, clothe yourself with love and let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Colossians 3:9-17;
Care for God’s creation — “God made the heavens and the earth, and it was good.” Genesis 1:1-31.
It is easy to say that our voice does not matter. It is easy to think that we alone cannot make a difference. It is not just about writing letters or visiting our representatives in local, state or national offices. There are many ways to convey Catholic social teaching in our public discourse (including social media), by our actions and how we pass those values along to the next generation. One way to exercise our concern for the people of Mississippi is joining Catholics from around the state for the Catholic Day at the Capitol on January 17th. This year our focus is on the tragic and unnecessary mental health crisis in Mississippi and the urgent need to enact legislation that will bring about needed change. Please consider registering for this important event. For more info or to register contact: Sue Allen, coordinator of social justice ministry, Catholic Charities Jackson or email firstname.lastname@example.org 601-383-3849.
(Fran Lavelle is the director of the Department of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson.)