We have been hearing a lot about “Making America Great Again” this election cycle. As Catholics, this approach should be much more than a simple campaign slogan. Author Stephen P. White provides a guide that goes beyond a political campaign and to the heart of how Catholics can live a faith-filled life as American citizens today. Red, White, Blue, and Catholic is the name of the book and it is a beacon in this dark night we find our country currently in. The book has been acclaimed as “an indispensable guide for Catholic citizens” for good reason.
The book begins with the definition of what citizenship is. It is “belonging to a community, acting for the good of the community, taking responsibility for it, loving it, and teaching others to care for and love it.” Our natural response to this is that we accomplish this by voting and in some ways this is true. In the opening chapter of the book Stephen takes a look at the 1891 encyclical Of New Things (Rerum Novarum) by Pope Leo XIII. This encyclical gave birth to what we now call Catholic social teaching. The encyclical takes a hard look at the institutions of civil society should serve the human person.
Stephen breaks down the major principles of Catholic social teaching after this introduction to Rerum Novarum. These four principles are the human person in civil society. In particular Stephen emphasizes the family as an institution within society and how the decline of the family in our time has had a direct effect on the decline of society. The second is subsidiarity, the principal of social order that different institutions in society are free to be what they are. Families are free to create and raise the next generation, the Church is free to provide moral formation, businesses are free to create wealth in a responsible manner and schools are free to educate. Thirdly come solidarity a shard sense of responsibility, a sense that we’re responsible for the well- being of all. The fourth and final principal is the common good which is the material, moral and spiritual good of every individual in society. As Stephen tells us, “These four principals, understood together, form the skeleton of the Church’s vision of society. Our task as citizens is to add meat to the bones.”
One important thing to remember, and a point Stephen emphasizes in the book, is that we need to do our homework BEFORE going to the voting booth. To be able to effectively accomplish all the things noted above we need a cooperative relationship between the church and government. Stephen makes an excellent point when he says, “If we want our politics to serve the common good, then we need a solid foundation. As we’ve seen strong families and a vibrant Church are crucial to the health of a society We can’t have a healthy nation unless these foundational institutions are in good order.”
We need to know who we are voting for. We need to understand their stance on social issues we discussed above. More importantly we need to be active participants in the task of accomplishing the good work of the Church outside of the voting booth. We must live a faithful and holy life. Be an example for those around you. Volunteer at a food bank, pray at an abortion center, donate to a pregnancy center, drop a few dollars into any special collection baskets for the local needy. You can play a vital part in the building up of your community. Be an active informed citizen and we can change society. Stephen P. White has given us a guide that helps us be faithful citizens the 364 days a year that do not involve voting. Take it, read it, understand your duty as a Catholic citizen of this great country.