The election grows nearer but I still hear some Catholics say that they have not yet decided who to vote for. So I put together a short page of resources to help you vote your Catholic conscience. Sadly, many have not yet formed their consciences, and many Catholics do not even know what that means. The Vote page will help you begin. First, start learning your faith (this is the Year of Faith, after all)! Then live it. Everywhere. Yes, in the voting booth, too. If we don’t do everything as Catholic Christians, then our faith is so much wind, as in, hot air.

Resources to Help You Form and Vote Your Catholic Conscience so you can LIVE your faith.

[Brief list of voting guides at the end of this post and on the new Vote page.] People have told me here at the blog, in emails, on forums, in conversations, that being Catholic has nothing to do with politics, has nothing to do with choosing a candidate, has nothing to do with any part of life except one hour on Sunday. Most of these people are not Catholic or they would realize many of us don’t go to Mass just that one hour on Sunday; many of us go during the week, too, and some go every day of their lives and always have. Even so, being Catholic is not just about what we do at Mass, no matter how many times a week we attend.

And voting as a Catholic is not merely a matter of prayer and reflection, but prayer and reflection on the teachings of the Church, listening to the priests and bishops giving guidance concerning the teachings of the Church, and doing our best to live as faithful Catholics abiding by the teachings of the Church. Yes, we have to follow our consciences. But first —FIRST–we have to FORM our consciences! And how do we form our consciences? By listening to our priests and bishops, the Chief Bishop, and studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the marvelous teaching documents written by the Popes (including but not limited to the last two Popes, the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI).

There is absolutely no excuse for any Catholic old enough to vote not to know his or her faith. You can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (here or here or here) and/or study the Catechism and the documents written by the Popes and the documents of Vatican II, and much more, all on the web and all for free. The bishops of the USCCB have been trying to teach people for some time now and the “faithful” blithely ignore them and say they can follow their own consciences. Without forming them!

Yes, some bishops are less than stellar examples. So don’t follow their examples! But do as they say, the same way Jesus told the disciples to do what the Pharisees said do. But He told them not to do as the Pharisees did! And besides, a good many bishops are wonderful shepherds and I pray for them every day. They do not have an easy job. Shepherding Catholics is like herding cats. Everybody wants to be his own Pope! Well, there’s only one Pope and he’s in Rome!

So form your Catholic conscience and THEN follow it! Read Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) and Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). Study them (study guides to  Evangelium Vitae and Humanae Vitae). I’ve been told that the Church has yet to rule on abortion being a sin. Newsflash: The Church has taught that abortion is a grave sin since the time of the early Church, in the Didache (in chapter two, really the second paragraph)! And we know that taking it upon ourselves to take an innocent life is prohibited by the Ten Commandments.

So right there, before we go any further, we can see that if a candidate wants to do everything in his power to promote and support abortion and cram it down the throats of the people and refuses to do anything that would limit abortion, which is an intrinsic evil, which means it is always and everywhere a serious and grave sin, then, guess what? A Catholic may not vote for that candidate and say that he is following his Catholic conscience. Because he would be demonstrating that he does not, in fact, have a Catholic conscience!

We can vote for someone who does not share our idea of the intrinsic evil of abortion IF–IF IF IF–we have reason to believe that that person would act in such a way as to limit abortion more than another candidate would. And we do have just this case in our political landscape as I write these words. We must vote in such a way as to limit evil. If you vote for the candidate who has put into positions of authority numerous people formerly connected with the largest abortion provider in this country, then you are not voting to limit evil, you are voting in support of evil. You are voting against a Catholic conscience, which you would demonstrate by your action, by your vote.

This is a grave scandal and for the life of me I cannot understand anyone not understanding this issue or thinking that any issue at all could ever take precedence over LIFE! If you don’t have life, I ask you, then what, pray tell, do you have? Nothing! The economy doesn’t matter if we are happy to ignore the slaughter of millions to get that economy. And the economy certainly doesn’t matter to those who we slaughter! So stop saying that pro-life people are “one issue voters” and then proceeding to say that you are voting on the issue of the economy. Hello! Isn’t that being a “one issue voter”? Isn’t that what you just said we shouldn’t do, reduce our vote to a vote on just one issue? Well, at least, if I “reduce” my vote to “just one issue”, I “reduced” it to the ONE FOUNDATIONAL issue–LIFE ITSELF!

Yes, other matters matter. But Life is the one matter that matters most. Without it, the rest of the issues are empty talk and chatter.

Voting as a Catholic: Live Your Faith, Vote Your Faith!

These links are also on the new Vote page added tonight. I’ll add more as I find them.

To Help You Form Your Catholic Conscience:

Seek First the Kingdom, by Donald Cardinal Wuerl(I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m writing a series of posts as I read a truly important book that was released at the end of 2011, not long before the infamous HHS Mandate was announced. The following is the first installment in the series. All excerpts are taken from Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith, by Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Our Sunday Visitor, 2011, Kindle Edition. Get the book from Amazon. Preview or buy the Kindle version.)

Most Christians have prayed the Lord’s Prayer. As a young Methodist my parents helped me memorize it and we prayed it every Sunday as part of our worship service. As a New Ager I used a form of it in a daily meditation (don’t laugh, or do laugh, but know that I was earnestly searching for truth even if I had no idea how or where to find it). Later as a Buddhist I opened each and every meditation session with the words “Our Father” because I never could accept the atheism of Buddhism. I suppose over the years I gave some thought to this idea of praying to “Our Father”. But I gave almost no thought at all to what it meant to pray that His kingdom would come, even though I said those words, too, every time I said the rest of the prayer. I didn’t even know what the kingdom was.

So what is the kingdom? Is it a metaphor and nothing more? I will allow the Cardinal to speak to that himself:

In the course of this book we will consider the kingdom in some detail. We’ll look at Jesus’ sayings, the apostles’ doctrine, and the tradition of the Church. What we’ll see is that Jesus was not simply speaking symbolically when he announced the kingdom. This was not just a preferred metaphor. He was urgent and specific about what the kingdom was and what it wasn’t, who was in it and who was outside it, and about how one could get in it and stay in it. His kingdom had distinguishing characteristics.

If he had been speaking metaphorically, it would have been an ill-chosen metaphor, since it brought suspicion and persecution upon him, his apostles, and many followers down through the ages. The Romans did not fear a metaphor. Nor did the Persians. Nor have any of their successors in the business of the persecution of Christians. These earthly powers killed Christians because they knew the Christians were serious about a certain king and his kingdom, and they considered that kingdom a threat to their own. God’s kingdom was serious business.

Yes, serious. Then and now. I can’t tell you how serious I have gotten about my faith since I first heard about the HHS Mandate and the ramping up of attacks on religious freedom here in the U.S. This past Friday I bought myself an early Easter gift to celebrate my 16th anniversary of being received into Holy Mother Church: a brand new beautiful Daily Roman Missal, first one I have ever had. With that purchase I also made a commitment to attend Daily Mass. It’s part of my preparation for what I see coming, part of my putting on the whole armor of God, diving deeper into discipleship, getting ready to do my part for the kingdom. For my King. To do that I need, among other things, to understand more fully what the kingdom is, because, as Cardinal Wuerl writes:

[I]n our own day the kingdom is often misunderstood and misconstrued, even by Christians. Some do try to dismiss it as a metaphor — a symbol of what the world would be like if more people would be nice to one another. People should be nice to one another; but the kingdom of God is not reducible to niceness. Others bring it up when they want to suggest that Christians are secretly disloyal to the current regime — that the Christian “kingdom” is somehow a code word for theocracy.

In every election year, it seems, we find the kingdom suffering violence and taken away, far away, from its original intention. Political parties and candidates like to claim, or strongly suggest, that their agenda is the valid way to apply the Gospel in the world. When they do, secularists will then step forth to argue that religious people have no right whatsoever to “impose” their beliefs by speaking up in public.

We should be prepared for this; and as Christians we should be prepared to give an answer to both errors, to make the necessary distinctions, and to call people to account for their use and misuse of the kingdom of God.

I often deal with personal attacks on the Church and myself from people I interact with online and in person, and get a fair share of honest (if misinformed and confused) questions and (sometimes) accusations from friends and family. These confrontations are happening with more and more frequency. All the more reason to learn more about my faith, to practice my faith, to live my faith, at a deeper level than ever before. This is why I’m studying the faith, as, indeed, I was before, but with renewed fervor. Why I’m returning to my earlier practice of attending Daily Mass. Why I’m reading this book. And why I’m sharing it with you.

I hope you’ll join me as I seek to learn more about the kingdom and about our role in that kingdom. And I hope you’ll pick up a copy of your own and share it with your family and friends. We need all Christians and all people of good will to stand up and speak out now, to do what is right. To do that, we need to know what is right. First things first. I’ll share what I learn with you here on the blog, both as I continue to read Cardinal Wuerl’s book and as I continue to grow in discipleship.

Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you. Peace be with you, now and always.

Recently I turned on the TV and happened to catch the last few minutes of a retreat being given by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. I had stumbled upon episode three of a ten-part series called Living the Discerning Life: The Spiritual Teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I have two of Fr. Gallagher’s books (The Discernment of Spirits and Meditation and Contemplation), which I’ve only begun reading, and some free mp3’s of some conversations he had with Kris McGregor of the blog, Discerning Hearts, which I’ve been listening to in the car. The DVD set and CD’s look really good, too, but I have more than enough to absorb for now. (Description of the Discernment series continues below.)

Living the Discerning Life, EWTN series, DVD

Continue reading

Catholicism seriesA few days ago I heard Fr. Robert Barron speak about his latest project, Catholicism, and the New Evangelization at the Cathedral of St. Paul’s in downtown Birmingham. Fr. Barron autographed my copy of the companion book to the series which has been airing on PBS stations around the country and also on EWTN (view the TV schedule). If you haven’t caught it yet, I highly recommend that you do so, or get a set of discs to watch any time. Or DVR it. I read somewhere on the web that even some libraries are getting copies. People are hungry for the truth and for beauty and Catholicism (both the series and the Faith) provides plenty of both.  Continue reading

I downloaded Pope Benedict’s newest encyclical, Love in Truth, a couple of days ago and started reading it last night. It’s about 30,000 words and I’ve only read through section 12 (out of 79), but I can tell you that I am really enjoying it. We’re talking social justice here and the weaving together of many themes that concern the Church today and that concern all people of good will. Continue reading

Respecting life involves more than praying the Rosary-for-Life or working for an end to abortion, though those are important aspects of it. Respecting life also means driving the speed limit, not driving too close to the fellow in front of you, not speeding down neighborhood streets ignoring the living beings all around whose lives are endangered by such reckless behavior.

Really, anyone who claims to be pro-life and then gets behind the wheel of an automobile and habitually drives 10 to 20 miles over the speed limit on the way to his prayer group or to Mass is deceiving himself. The way we live either gives proof to our words or makes us liars. Continue reading