Moving forward with love
Believe it or not, this election season may actually be on the brink of ending -- though that’s certainly a somewhat optimistic prediction. Regardless, this is an election that demands something different going forward. Most of us, it’s probably fair to say, are voting against rather than for someone -- even voting against two someones. So let’s do something good for America and think about getting better.
During the fall in Washington, D.C., I led a few conversations on virtue sponsored by the National Review Institute, the Catholic Information Center and the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America. An election discussion just a week before voting day included counsel for voters to move beyond themselves. Humility became the takeaway word.
In a book on the virtues, Fr. John Wickham writes about how the “joyful freedom of Christian humility liberates us to do our very best in the limited situations of now and the months ahead.” Part of being humble includes seeing life -- all lives -- as a gift. It involves a self-forgetfulness that puts others’ needs before our own, a healthy counter to the hyper-individualism that keeps us, among other things, with eyes locked to our phones.
In terms of the present moment and the days ahead, that could mean calling a friend you may have vowed to “unfriend” or avoid because of his or her strident political opinions, apologizing and proposing an activity that could raise spirits or help people in your community or elsewhere.
The conversation on civility and renewal at Catholic University a week before Election Day happened just yards away from where Pope Francis celebrated Mass last September. At the time, Pope Francis said, among other things, that people have become “anesthetized.” As an antidote to this numbness, the pope cited the example of Father Junipero Serra, the founder of the California missions who, he said, was the “embodiment of a Church which goes forth, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God.”
He also cited Serra’s motto: “Keep moving forward!” Pope Francis explained: “For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”
During that visit, the pope also visited some women down the block, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the poverty-stricken people on the margins of society, people too often dismissed, avoided and forgotten.
It was a boost for a community of women who found themselves having to go to the Supreme Court to fight the Obamacare health insurance mandate, which the group, like many religious organizations, sees as a violation of its principles. But perhaps what is most important to know about the Little Sisters is their love. Fr. Wickham writes about this particular virtue: “love between human persons anywhere ... will call for forgiveness and reconciliation.
As the burden of this election nears an end, humility and love can help bridge differences, even celebrate them. We could revel in our common identity as created beings called to joyful service. It’s a start at beginning again -- while avoiding a repeat or worse of our current political situation. It’s a way to keep moving forward.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-atlarge of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.