Faced with two presidential candidates who have little or no regard for religiously-informed social values and a steady stream of dishonest and uncharitable vitriol from the campaigns and their various media allies, many people of faith are asking: What is to be done?
Disgusted with having to choose between various evils, many believers are, rightly, concluding that our country cannot be renewed by politics alone. We must reach out to our neighbors, take back the universities, be voices for truth in our workplaces, engage with the culture…. The breath of opportunities can be inspiring, but also overwhelming, exhausting even.
So I have boiled this vast array of possibilities down to a few things anyone – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, parents, singles, everyone – can do every day.
1. Pray daily
Pray at every meal, thanking God for His gifts and asking His blessings upon the needy.
Pray with your family (apart from meals). Marriages are strengthened by shared prayer. Children need to see their parents praying in order to grow in their own prayer. If you do not live with family members, join with housemates, neighbors, or co-workers. If a few moments are all you have, offer it. Our family sings a song and says a short prayer (30 seconds?) each morning. It is more important to pray regularly than to pray at great length.
Pray by yourself, if only for a moment. Communal prayer is valuable, but the Gospel admonishes us to pray in solitude as well, offering an opportunity for special intimacy with God.
2. Read daily
Read something of enduring value: Scripture, spiritual reading, history, or great literature. Regularity is more important than length.
If you have children, read to them every day as well.
3. Sing, whistle, or play a song each day
Culture is conveyed in more than written words. One of the simplest, and sometimes most moving, ways we communicate the patrimony of culture is through song. Hymns, folk tunes, ballads: there are plenty of songs that reach across the years and across geography, telling stories, expressing beauty, and binding communities.
These simple tasks do not include every one of our duties. But they represent a simple, yet concrete, effort aimed at preserving a way of life which is focused on the highest things and has the cultural tools to capture and share our deepest values. So long as such a way of life continues to exist, civilization will not be lost and the possibility of political renewal remains. But if we lose our cultural moorings, if our families become devoid of godliness and our society loses its own stories and the ability to convey them, a few tactical victories in the political arena will count for nothing.