How to get through Inauguration Day as a Catholic

Therese Bussen

On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. It’s really happening.

I think it’s safe to say that many Catholics my age don’t like Trump; there were plenty of candidates we liked better. So I understand how you feel when you say, “He’s not my president,” or that you’re worried about how he will treat minorities, or whether he really will do what he says he will do.

But it’s time to face reality. It’s time to be faithful to our country, even if we don’t like the man who sits in the Oval Office.

Because he is our president. Half of the country voted for him. And whether we like the person or not, we have to respect the office of the president and accept what has happened. Accept that this is what we have to work with, and then work with it.

It doesn’t help whatsoever to keep throwing fuel to the fire of division that is engulfing our country. More than what the new president could potentially do (or not do), that division is what frightens.

It’s one thing to raise our voices against something truly unjust, but it’s another to complain about a fair voting process that our country has always used. (See point 3 below).

So here’s the gut check: Let’s stop complaining about the government and who is or who is not president. If you want to see change, be of real help.

 

So what can you do?

 

1. Pray for our country.
Prayer shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to the sufferings of our country. First and foremost, as Catholics, our job is to pray for the people, places, and systems given to us. Pray for the president, for his cabinet, for senators and house representatives and for those who sit on the Supreme Court.

2. Love and listen to everyone around you, regardless of their political stance or who they voted for.
Our country is so split down the middle, and we need healing. Let’s be that healing by loving everyone around us at home, in church, in school, and yes, on social media. Judgmental comments aren’t helping anybody.

3. Read.
Read about our political processes and voting systems. Educate yourself on the government. And after you’ve read, read some more.

4. Make your voice heard on a local level.
Attend town meetings, volunteer to help with campaigns, and especially, contact your local elected officials via letters, emails or phone calls. Find their information at http://USA.gov. You can also sign up for alerts at Colorado Catholic Conference to remind you when to call your legislators. Visit their website at http://cocatholicconference.org.

5. Run for political offices.
You can run for offices! Think about getting into the politics on your local level. And if you’ve done 1-4, we really need you.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.