Pray: A Non-Partisan Novena for the 2020 Election

A man sanitizes a voting booth to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease at a polling station on Staten Island, N.Y., Oct. 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

For weeks the United States has lived in the future, with so many hearts and minds trained on the day our next president will be chosen. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging Catholics to pray a novena for nine days up to the 2020 election, from Oct. 26 to the fateful day of Nov. 3, including an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be for each day’s nonpartisan intention. Along with each U.S.C.C.B intention, I offer some ideas on what people of faith can bring to prayer.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging Catholics to pray a novena for nine days up to the 2020 election, from Oct. 26 to the fateful day of Nov. 3.

Day One: Monday, October 26

“As we prepare for the national & local elections, in the midst of a global pandemic, may our political engagement be guided by our Catholic Faith.”

We make decisions that have an impact on both ourselves and others. May God’s love open hearts even further for others, and may that openness to love guide us in the election of our leaders. It is with great faith and hope that we must ask that the Lord will also move our elected leaders to deep compassion, understanding and service that mirrors Christ. Our world needs wise discernment and healing and for voters and politicians to show care for all human life in their continuing response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Again and again, may we ask that God deepen his love through all that we do, including filling out those little ovals on the ballot.

Day Two: Tuesday, October 27

“In this month of the Holy Rosary, may Our Blessed Mother guide us in confronting racial inequalities and restoring peace in our communities.”

Racial justice is God’s loving justice, and Jesus is with those who are persecuted, neglected and killed because of the color of their skin. Let us pray that our nation chooses leaders and policies that further the cause of racial justice and dismantle the undue cross of burden that Americans of color continue to bear. We also need to pray for Indigenous Americans who have experienced Covid-19 hospitalizations at a rate 5.3 times that of non-Hispanic whites because of social and health care inequities.

Let us pray that our nation chooses leaders and policies that further the cause of racial justice and dismantle the undue cross of burden that Americans of color continue to bear.

May God help us and those who represent us to interrogate how racism is at work within our own frameworks and bodies.

Day Three: Wednesday, October 28

“May all Americans recall the necessity of dialogue, civility, and humility in this election season.”

It is true that no political candidate is perfect. May God help us to refrain from idolizing any particular leader—to discern support for elected officials and policies with a posture of faith that completely surrenders to the extravagant love of God. Let us ask God to deepen our listening and receptiveness towards those we may disagree with or even refer to as political enemies, and may we pray that our political leaders also approach dialogue with the same respect and humility.

We should, with this intention, also recall that we can be wrong and that our perspectives are limited by our own experience, knowledge and worldview. Pray for openness to hearing about the experiences of others, especially how policy decisions affect people with realities that may be very different from our own. It is good to remain open to criticism and changing understandings of what is right, as personal and societal paradigms evolve according to truth.

Day Four: Thursday, October 29

“May all people understand the moral and ethical dimensions of political decisions and decide accordingly.”

Do we look at the ballot according to our own desires and needs or according to holistic local, national and international community needs? American politics shapes both U.S lives and the lives of diverse people across our country and worldwide. We can pray for the people of Yemen, where millions are malnourished and in need of aid as they continue to face the world’s worst humanitarian crisis because certain powers—including the United States—persist in exacerbating the conflict there.

Let us pray for all those in the United States who cannot afford health care, as well as for proper moral discernment on the part of those making decisions about access to health care. Pray for the transgender person who feels unloved or afraid.

Pray for those incarcerated in jails and prisons; let us and our leaders not cast them aside as unworthy of reconciliation, rehabilitation and their own justice. Pray for the ability to recognize and aid the vulnerable, whom we are morally, ethically and spiritually charged to defend. Pray that leaders would do the same—that our elected officials will hold themselves to high standards of morality and ethics.

Pray for the ability to recognize and aid the vulnerable, whom we are morally, ethically and spiritually charged to defend.

Day Five: Friday, October 30

“May voters & elected leaders uphold the dignity of every human life in their political engagement.”

Many of the choices we make offend the sanctity of life. We need to pray that our relationship with life may deepen, so we are able to further understand its holiness and that this relationship with life would inspire us and those around us to work for a beloved community that sees every person as family. Pray for a president, a Congress and legislation that holds every individual as sacred.

Pray for immigrants who flee violence, persecution and economic suffering, who look for safety and life with greater dignity in the United States. Pray for the protection of the unborn and for expecting mothers and families who need help to care for their children and themselves. Pray for the 545 migrant children who are still separated from their parents at our southern border—whose parents cannot be found.

Let us pray that our hearts dare not feel we deserve to choose who lives or dies. Pray for Lisa Montgomery, who in December will be the first woman executed by the federal government since 1953. Pray for the families of the seven people who lost their lives to federal execution over the summer. Pray the death penalty is abolished. Pray for the families of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain and all others killed by police officers or other civilians prejudiced against them.

Day Six: Saturday, October 31

“May Catholics recall all aspects of Catholic Social Teaching as they consider their votes.”

May Catholics and all people of good will recall the truth and blessedness of life and the dignity of the human person; may Christ’s love so fill us that this teaching becomes a focus of our life, and therefore our civic engagement. Let us pray that we might respond to the call to family, community and participation in a way which supports the good of families in their diverse arrangements and realities—and that the community we envision and manifest be inclusive, inviting all people to share a table together, following the example of Jesus.

Let us pray that the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable be front and center, that they be prioritized in our own choices and in those of our leaders, for “[t]rue worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed” (Is 58:5-7). Pray for community efforts that prioritize the rights and dignity of workers rather than idolize the economy.

Let us pray for our leaders to lead with undying reverence for our innate humanity and connection, that we would be moved to care more for God's creation and that this care might take precedence in the operation of our country. Pray that politicians understand environmental justice’s relevance, not only our beloved Earth but to all life on it. Let our care for creation reflect a great love for those most at risk of suffering from the effects of climate change.

Pray for the protection of the unborn and for expecting mothers and families who need help to care for their children and themselves.

Day Seven: Sunday, November 1

“May there be a transformation of politics to focus on the dignity of the human person and the common good.”

Let us for a revolution of the heart in Washington and in our local governments that makes our social agenda look like that of Christ. Pray that our politicians work to make quality health care accessible to all people, in the spirit of a Jesus who healed. Let us pray that leaders stop preferring their own personal interest over the good of all, that politicians remember it is in their duty as elected officials to truly embody the spirit of a public “servant.”

Pray that we and our leaders would not be the Pontius Pilates of our day. How do we crucify others and Christ among us? Pray for remedy and reparation for those our nation harms. In our prayer, let us remember that hoping after Christ’s peace is not something to be flouted for personal agenda—the hope for Christ’s peace urges us to seek genuine love and justice. We must ask God to keep reminding us what his kingdom really means, remaining open to repentance that moves us closer to the sacrificial, wholehearted nature of his love. Let our love not be fleeting, selective or fickle.

Day Eight: Monday, November 2

“May we keep in mind the gift of religious freedom and our duty to defend and exercise it as faithful citizens.”

Giving thanks for our own freedom, we should pray for Christians who are persecuted and killed worldwide, for Muslims who are discriminated against and assaulted for their faith, for Jewish people who continue to face the sinister hatred of anti-Semitism. Pray for the Uighurs in China, who are held by the thousands in detention centers. Pray for the protection of conscience rights of those in the United States whose religious beliefs may run contrary to popular opinion. Pray that no one in the United States lives in fear because of their faith.

We can continue to pray that all people find love in their hearts, and that hatred, fear and prejudice not be wielded in the name of faith. May the same be true for those who represent us and make executive, legislative and judicial decisions on our behalf.

Day Nine: Tuesday, November 3

“Today, as we approach the polls, may we understand & embrace the principles of our Faith that should guide our political engagement.”

Pray to more deeply understand and embrace God thus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Closing: Wednesday, November 4

“May the leaders elected this week be guided by the Holy Spirit as they fulfill their positions.”

Amen. Let it truly be so, God who is love.

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