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: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.