Give Jesus something beautiful

“Do something beautiful for God.” This saying was at the heart of Blessed Mother Teresa’s spirituality and mission. The simple phrase is rich in meaning for each and every disciple of Christ.

These past few weeks I have written about politics, the election and voting with a well-formed conscience. This week, with the election taking place, I want to offer you one last thought on voting, which is tied to Mother Teresa’s desire to fill her life with acts of love for God, building a culture of life.

Mother Teresa’s spiritual life was centered on two Scripture passages. The first is the story of Mary Magdalene pouring expensive oil on Jesus’ head just days before he was crucified. Some of the disciples were upset that she had “wasted” something so valuable, but Jesus replied, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mk 14:6).

For the saint of Calcutta, doing beautiful things for Jesus was intimately tied to satisfying his thirst for our love and his thirst to love each one of us. Her inspiration for quenching Jesus’ thirst came from reflecting on the moment when Christ hung on the cross and cried out, “I thirst” (Jn 19: 28).

As she was nearing the end of her life, Mother Teresa wrote a letter to all of her religious sisters about Jesus’ thirst. She told them, “If you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—‘I Thirst’ is something much deeper than just Jesus saying ‘I love you.’ Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.”

Remember these two principles of doing something beautiful for God and responding to his thirst when you consider who you will vote for and what type of legislation you will support or oppose in the coming years.

In particular, I urge you to think of your children, grandchildren and the future generations of Coloradans. “The child,” Mother Teresa said, “is the beauty of God present in the world—that greatest gift to a family.” By standing up for our children, we are able to do something beautiful for God, as well as respond to his longing to love through us.

There are many issues being discussed at the state and national levels that will impact future generations, but there are two that I want to focus on this week. The first issue is education, and the second is supporting the stability and well-being of families.

When it comes to education, candidates and policies that promote parental choice in education deserve our support. The current situation of taxpayer funds only going to public schools makes it difficult for parents, especially those who are poor, to send their children to schools that they believe will best educate them and help them grow in virtue.

In the area of family life, Catholics should support candidates and legislation that promotes marriage between one man and one woman. This is because children are best supported by the complementary gifts of a mother and father. Indeed, research shows that children raised by their biological mother and father are better off emotionally and economically than in any other setting.

Jesus thirsts for children to flourish, to come to know him and to be strongly rooted in their relationships with their mother and father. Indeed, it is from our own mothers and fathers that we begin to understand who God is as our Father and what it means that he claims us as his sons and daughters through baptism.

When Mother Teresa visited Denver in 1989 she gave all of us a gift. Her visit included a stop in one of Denver’s neighborhoods that was plagued by gang violence. The veteran journalist Terry Mattingly asked Mother Teresa if she might open a house there, but at the time Denver had just been added to a long list of dioceses around the world requesting the sisters.

Later in the day, Cardinal Stafford, who was then Archbishop of Denver, led an ecumenical prayer rally with her, followed by a presentation of gifts from the people of Colorado.

Mattingly, who was present for that exchange, recounted how Mother Teresa turned to the crowd and gestured for silence.

“I have a gift for you. I will give you my sisters and I hope that, together, we are going to do something beautiful for God,” she said.

In the coming year, I pray that you will join me in seeking to quench Jesus’ thirst with actions that give him the beautiful gift of holy, well-formed children. Let us build a culture of life and love by being the leaven of Christ in our homes, neighborhoods, work-places, society and culture! May we never fear to vote our faith and do something beautiful for God!

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”