Election Day is hours away. While voting can seem daunting, our task as Catholics is simpler than it seems.
Our role as citizens is not detached from our identity as children of God. We need to turn to Our Father to ask Him to enlighten our minds and hearts so that we may see the world and the choices we make through the eyes of His Son, Our Lord. This is especially true of voting. Though we might not all reach the same conclusions in every instance, we must dutifully work to properly form our conscience so that we may infuse the world with Gospel values. We should not vote merely out of emotion, self-interest, or ideological loyalty–instead, we should vote with a desire to serve God and love our neighbor, by doing our best to elect candidates who will protect life, respect human dignity, and promote the conditions for all to flourish.
- Go before the Lord, and ask Him to remove any obstacles you have in your life that might make it difficult for you to cast your vote in a way that reflects a consistent ethic of life. Ask Him to make you an instrument of His will. Pray with your own words, or consider using a prayer composed by the Church, such as the USCCB’s Prayer Before an Election. MCC staff will be praying a Holy Hour on Election Day, and we encourage you to do the same.
- Consider fasting. Fasting is a great way to purify our intentions, and unite our small sacrifice with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Fasting can be as simple as refraining from a meal, or cutting out a food or drink–coffee or sweets, for instance–from your day.
- Reflect on the Church’s teaching. We can’t know what the Father wants if we don’t spend time reflecting on what He’s told us, through Sacred Scripture and the Church. Consider using the Election Year resources MCC has developed. Our Nine Days for Our State & Nation Novena can be prayed in one sitting. We also offer a simple, one-page distillation of the United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops’s Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Also consider reflecting on important Church teachings, such as the USCCB’s Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics.
- Know where the candidates stand. Take some time to research where the candidates stand on the issues. Tools like iSideWith.com can be used to see how the presidential and congressional candidates stack up; the weight of specific issues can even be adjusted to reflect the significance the Church places on matters that attack the very foundation of human life, such as abortion and euthanasia. You can also refer to a resource from Our Sunday Visitor that lays out the two major party presidential candidates’ positionson many important issues.
The catechism teaches us that voting is an important responsibility of faithful citizenship. Why? Because it’s a way to love our neighbor by building a more just society. We should not sit out elections (even if we need not vote in every candidate race), as Minnesota’s bishops reminded us in their election year statement, and as Bishop Andrew Cozzens (Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis) made clear in his recent article. The candidates will never be perfect, but we need to do our best to prudentially discern who will be most likely to build a society that conforms to God’s law. We can also never forget the importance of voting in our local elections.
- Plan ahead. The Minnesota Secretary of State offers resources to help you prepare for Election Day, such as a Polling Place Finder, a preview of the candidates and questions that will appear on your ballot, and voting hours.
- Know your rights. Voting is a duty of citizenship; therefore, rights exist to help ensure that you can cast your ballot, such as Election Day registration and “time off work” rules. Take the time to know your rights. Also be informed about the rules at polling places.
That’s right–we need to pray after we vote: for our state and nation, for those who will serve as our elected officials, and for our own hearts, that we might be able to accept the results of the election, and will continue to work for life and dignity every day of the year, regardless of who is in office. Voting is one component of faithful citizenship, but faithful citizenship is a responsibility for the other 364 days of the year as well. After the election, the big work of renewing the political life of our state and our nation begins.
- Be with others in prayer. There are many good alternatives to watching cable news on election night. Chances are, your parish is probably hosting some sort of prayer service. If not, consider inviting friends over and praying the rosary, or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Ask the Blessed Mother, the patroness of our nation, to protect and guide it.
- Be open to the Lord. Ask Jesus how He wants you to be a missionary disciple. Remember, He desires you to work for life and dignity the whole year, not just on Election Day. Be open to His promptings, and be generous with your response.