Election 2016: Prayer, hope in Christ can be our guide at the polls

One evening a couple of weeks ago, I was filling up my car at a gas station and a man whom I did not know came up to me and said, “Father, I hope you are praying for our country!” I said that I am praying, and I hoped he was, too. His sentiment captured what many of us feel about our country, especially regarding the upcoming election. For conscientious Christians, many of us find our nation in a state of crisis.

I must acknowledge that this year, when it comes to voting, I find myself in a moral quandary greater than I ever have before. First and foremost, as a Catholic, I want to vote in a way that defends the right to life for all people, especially the unborn and the vulnerable, since this is the most foundational of human rights. Additionally, I want to vote for candidates who will protect our religious liberty, which has been undermined by the current administration and seems likely to be further undermined by an explicit anti-Catholic bias seen in this campaign.

Although these struggles are huge, they are not the only ones I face. I also want to vote for a candidate who reverences the dignity of the many immigrants I know who are wonderful, contributing members of our society and our Church. Those I know would make wonderful citizens, but because of our failed immigration policy in this country for many years, they are here in legal limbo without a pathway to citizenship. I believe they deserve a chance to stay here as we reform our immigration laws.

Most of all, I want to vote for a presidential candidate whom I can trust. Though I do not expect elected officials to agree with me on every issue, I should at least be able to expect that they have the character to serve in the best interest of our nation’s people. Unfortunately, I do not believe either of the two major candidates for president can be trusted to do so.

Thus, I find myself, as we all should be, driven to prayer to discern how to vote in this election. I know I have a moral obligation to vote, most especially because there are so many local elections that are so important. But I am disappointed that it will in part be an exercise in choosing between the lesser of evils, including the possibility of voting for a third-party candidate, or not voting at all for president — which is a legitimate way to exercise one’s vote.

I know that many people might disagree with me and say it is better to vote against the candidate that seems to pose the greater evil, even if you are voting for a candidate you still find morally problematic. I certainly understand that perspective, which is why I invite all Catholics to the same prayerful reflection I am trying to do about this election. Please visit the website of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, http://www.mncatholic.org, which provides helpful guidelines Catholics should consider in discerning their vote, as well as contains the Minnesota bishops’ election year statement and novena that begins Oct. 30 and can be found in print and video formats.

Please don’t let your discouragement about the presidential race prevent you from voting in the many other important local elections. Much good can still be done right here in Minnesota to promote life, liberty and the common good by electing legislators who share our values.

Most of all, let us pray for our country. I know many people who are discouraged and afraid of what might happen after this election. But fear and discouragement ultimately are not real options for us as Christians. Rather, we are called to be people of hope. We know from experience that the love of Jesus Christ is in fact the greatest power in the universe. History has taught us that even when society goes astray from that love, Jesus Christ and his Church always remain. Given where our country is today, I fully expect that more suffering will come to those who seek to sincerely practice their Catholic faith. But this suffering has always been part of the life of the Church. And we know that, united with Christ’s death on the cross, the sufferings we endure as part of the body of Christ can bear great fruit.

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