Of Elections and Candidates and Decisions

It’s October and that means many things to many people — leaves changing from green to vibrant hues of red and gold, schools delving deeply into topics of great importance in their lives and next month the end of an election season that has surprised and baffled us in many ways on more than one occasion.

We don’t have a “dream team” of candidates for political offices, especially for our highest office, but no matter what we think, one of those people will be elected and have the grave responsibilities of steering this country in the right direction.

Unfortunately, our citizens are so divided on what that “right direction” is, our new leader will have a tremendously difficult task of pulling us back together to face whatever obstacles will confront us over the next four years.

Sometimes we might think since we only have one vote that it really doesn’t matter whether we vote at all. If enough people feel that way, it will make a huge difference in the outcome of this presidential election. Why should we vote, we say when we do not favor either candidate? I’m afraid many of us are in this leaky vote of “none of the above,” but we can’t change that now, and we must exercise our right to vote because of our responsibility as good citizens and good Catholics who care about what happens to each person, no matter whether we agree with that person or not.

Here’s what Pope Francis said: “We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.” — Pope Francis, 9/16/13

If we accept Pope Francis’ admonishment to shoulder our responsibility and go to the polls, how can we choose one candidate over the other? If we read or at least take a look at “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org) we can see what topics we should consider when determining how to cast our vote.

Instead of getting bogged down with a candidate’s “talking points,” we have our own points to consider in making our choice on the ballot in November. Those points include: the value of human life, the dignity of the human person and the protection of God’s creation among others. To vote responsibly, we need to know where people stand on these and other issues. While that seems pretty straightforward, it is not quite that easy to sort out what a candidate says from what we believe he or she will do once elected.

Critical to our choices is how we practice our faith as we prepare to vote, by reading and listening carefully, and certainly by prayer, not only that we make good choices but also prayer for the candidates and the decisions they make that will affect all of us.