Friday, August 26, 2011

Go Make a Difference

By Kathi Scarpace
Justice for Immigrants Coordinator

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” (Faithful Citizenship 13). Uh, oh. This hot potato is the teaching of the Church. And this hot potato is something that we should be teaching, and modeling, for our children and teens.

Here is a little examination of conscience.

Are you registered to vote? Do you vote only for the president or do you vote in every election? Have you offered to help your 18-year-old register to vote?

What issues are important to you and why? How does your stand on these issues align with Catholic social teaching? Do you know what Catholic social teaching is?

How do you learn about the issues important to you? Who do you listen to for political advice?  Have you asked your teen his or her opinion on an issue that matters to you?

Do you know who your legislators are? Have you ever called or visited an elected official? Why or why not? How do you participate in the life of your town or city?

The word “political” comes from the Greek root word, polis or city. Greeks valued participation in the life of the city. Are you involved in a civic event, e.g., a bike race, a parade, a fundraiser? Do you bring your children with you to help with the event? What lessons are you teaching?

What does “separation of Church and state” mean to you? Have you ever read the bishops’ document, Faithful Citizenship? How does your faith impact your political point of view? If your faith does not influence your political perspective, why not? As Father Bransfield of the US Catholic Conference writes, “Conscience insists that human dilemmas are moral concerns long before they are political points of view.” 

“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  This dismissal could be translated, “Go and make a difference.” Making a difference, for Catholics, often means charity. Charity is the needed tourniquet that stops the bleeding; political action is a surgery that closes the wound. Young people want to make a difference and an impact on the world. Political actions: voting, participating in civic events, learning about the issues of the day, reflecting on Church teaching and communicating our concerns and values to our legislators and our children, are ways we can fulfill the holy obligation of participation in political life.

Nothing to be scared of.

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