As I’ve discussed in the first two parts of this series, Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants to see the Catholic youth mobilized, spreading the Gospel, and bringing the truth of the Church to the world.
So far I’ve discussed two ways the youth can answer the Pope’s call: through being active in the parish, and through direct action to those in our society who are in need.
To wrap up this series, I’d like to discuss a third and final way, one that is perhaps the most difficult and spiritually exhausting: the political spectrum.
Catholics have a long history of political involvement. We were right next to the workers during the American labor movement in the early 20th century. We’ve actively campaigned against economic inequality. We’ve fought abortion for decades, sought peace in war time, and have even aided former presidents of the United States. It’s important that we maintain our place in politics. This is especially true for the Church youth, because we aren’t just the next generation of voters, we’re the next generation of council members, congressmen, senators, and law makers, and we need to be there to maintain the moral voice in our country, protect the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent, and ensure religious freedom.
We live in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to everything I just mentioned above. As young Catholics, we need to be politically involved now. Does this mean “forcing” our Catholic faith upon others? Of course not, but it does mean using the tenants of our faith to influence a safe, productive, and moral society.
So, what steps can we take to get involved? Well first, let me make a suggestion about where to focus. While it’s important to stay informed on federal matters, especially during midterm and presidential elections, it is perhaps more beneficial to focus on your state and city governments. These entities are more likely to have more of an impact on your community, and will offer you the opportunity for you to be directly involved. In fact, during the labor movement, there were many Catholic political activists who believed that focusing on the local community first was the best way to influence change and provide for the people.
The first and easiest thing we can do is vote our conscious and speak our voice. Support the candidates that will make the moral choices for the good of society, or volunteer with a campaign. Communicate with your representatives through letters, emails, and phone calls. Attend city meetings, rallies, fundraisers, speaking events, or organize one yourself.
There are some of you, however, that are probably called to more than just being an active citizen. As I mentioned above, as our current members of congress, state governments, and city councils retire and pass on, we are the ones who will fill those seats. If you think God is calling you to run for office, I encourage you to follow that calling. As Catholic youth, we may not be of age to run for higher office, but many of us are eligible to run local or state government.
Now, there are significant dangers when getting involved with politics. It can be a dirty, corrupt, and immoral realm. Power, money, greed, and ideology can distort our views, and cause us to fall away from God. There are many today who claim to follow the Catholic faith, but then fervently fight in favor of abortion, support unjust war, or ignore the needs of the poor. That goes for citizens just as much as politicians.
We have to be aware of these dangers, and make sure we stay clear of them. First, and most importantly, we need to know what we stand for. Our position on every cause, social issue, or political agenda is perfectly outlined in the Catechism. So before we get involved, we should always make sure that whatever we’re supporting is in line with Church teaching.
We should also pray constantly for guidance and strength, because the truth is, a Catholic who remains true to the Church and Her teachings isn’t always the most popular in the political world. We will get lambasted as sexist, prejudiced, homophobic, or a traitor. We will be forced to defend our views, our stances, and our prerogatives against worldly views, and it will be difficult. However, that’s no reason to shy away from our obligation, and certainly no reason to keep silent.
As this series wraps up, I hope some of you will be inspired by what I’ve written, take the Pope’s calling to the Catholic youth seriously, and apply it to your lives. The ways I’ve mentioned aren’t the only ways, and perhaps you’ll find your own. What’s most important is that we get out there, get involved, and live the gospel.