Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Prayers and My Politics

I rarely involve myself in politics. I have friends and family members of  every political persuasion and I find politics so often divisive and counter productive to those relationships. I would rather spend my time raising our sons, nurturing my marriage and building friendships. In fact, the last time I took a public stance on anything was 10 years ago, when the United States was contemplating the invasion of Iraq. I went to some peace vigils and stood on the sidewalk of our small town with a sign quoting Blessed John Paul II. Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.

That was then. This is now.

As I wrote last week, our local school board has hired a man with a thin resume and a penchant for "data-driven decisions" to run our tiny school district. Within 50 days he fired 9 support staff members  (which, among other things, leaves the high school without a single secretary) and hastily hired three colleagues from the state Department of Education to serve in the district's central office, where they, along with him, now are pulling in six-figure salaries. Ours is a town with a high poverty rate and citizens who care deeply about the public schools.

There is much more to be outraged about and I don't feel like detailing here at the moment. My point in writing this post is to talk about how I, as a committed Catholic, am trying to weave my prayers with my politics. It isn't easy. I have looked to the wisdom of Pope Francis, who tell us:

"A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern."

And so I am getting involved, going to strategy sessions with other concerned residents,  participating in online discussions and attending public meetings. I even hosted a meeting at our home the other night where some of the fired employees shared their stories with us. It was a privilege to listen.

But I am trying to remember, too, the followup words of Pope Francis when he talks about how good Catholics should meddle in politics.
"But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer!” he preached. “That’s what Paul says: ‘Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.’”

“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern.’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability,”

 “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”

I will keep organizing, keep going to meetings, keep speaking out about what worries me. At the same time I will also keep praying for the man the board of education hired, praying that he learns to serve with humility and wisdom.

I need to pray because it's the right thing to do and also because it serves as a model to our sons, who are equally enraged by the tumult the superintendent has caused in our town.  Our boys need to understand that when we speak out about what matters to us, we must be respectful. And that, in the end, we need to cling to God whenever we have fears about the world. I want to end with a the youtube clip of the latest Board of Education meeting. My husband and I are proud of Gabriel, who begins speaking at 1:25. He is very much an introvert and to be 17 and speaking out is  amazing to witness.