It’s over. It’s finally, finally over.
What began well over a year and a half ago — the political campaigns surrounding the primaries and then the general election of a new president of the United States — has come to a conclusion.
The exigencies of publishing being what they are, I am writing this column before the election itself; however, given the ever-present polling going on, it is clear that whoever has won the election and is awaiting his or her inauguration, very few people in our country are going to be completely pleased with the outcome. The lengthy and painful process, always an emotional drain on the nation’s psyche, was especially virulent and bizarre this time, and the wounds and the scars are running deep. It seems, therefore, that perhaps we might in this column consider briefly what we priests and deacons might do to help each other and the people we serve to find healing and the willpower to continue the transformation of the society and culture around us. In the famous words of the Second Vatican Council, how might we be “a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 40)?
I offer four things to consider.
We must be active agents of peace and reconciliation. If the electorate has been as divided as the polls have indicated, half of our people are going to feel left out, disappointed, angry and marginalized by the outcome. We clergy must find a way to take the high ground and model the Christian love that is to characterize us all. How we relate to each other can have either a positive or negative effect as we go forward. As public ministers of the Gospel, we must guard our tongues and our behaviors — not only for the sake of others but for our own as well.
We must move beyond categories of “winners” and “losers.” If we permit this kind distinction to permeate our communities, we enable the very gridlock that has characterized so much of our public discourse for so many years. It seems to me that we must find ways to stress those things that bind us together rather than divide us. As Catholics who share in the sacramental life of the Church, and especially as we gather around the sacrificial altar of the Eucharist in Communion, we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy, and we are all God’s children saved by Christ’s saving action and filled with the spirit of reconciliation and mission.
We can offer opportunities for listening and dialogue, with a view toward reconciliation. If it seems appropriate within your parish, perhaps we might offer guided listening sessions in which people might share their own pain and concerns. It will be important that someone skilled in facilitating such sessions be involved so that they do not simply increase the tension. The purpose is not to exacerbate the problems or to argue the various issues all over again! Rather, this would be an attempt to map out how we can all move forward.
Finally, how might parishioners become even more involved in the local political scene? As we have seen in previous columns, our deacons might even serve in public office as long as they get prior written permission from their diocesan bishop. How might we encourage greater participation in the public life of the community? Do we actively suggest to specific parishioners that they might consider stepping forward?
As we prepare to move forward under our new national leaders, we deacons and priests might take advantage of this opportunity to help transform, even if on a small and local scale, public discourse and the political landscape.
DEACON DITEWIG, Ph.D., former executive director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate at the USCCB, now teaches and ministers in the Diocese of Monterey, Calif. He writes and consults extensively on the subject of the diaconate and contemporary ministry.