Anxious about the state of our country? Try praying.
One of the mercies of the (first) coronavirus pandemic year is I did not spend much time near a television. Of course, I watched videos on my phone off and on—my job as a conservative journalist, commentator and activist does require paying attention to the world. But I forced myself into discipline about avoiding it. (Except for the pope’s livestreamed Masses, which were a bit of a lifeline while churches were closed to the public.) Honestly, over the last decade or so, my taste for TV has waned. There is so much of life to live and it is stunningly short. Especially in a year with such death, I was hard-pressed to get back into it. I remember when people thought CNN’s “Crossfire” was combative. Now all of life feels like you are in the political crossfire.
You should know that I was not always this way. I was a political geek from my earliest years. During high school and in my early 20s, it was normal for me to fall asleep after hours of C-SPAN viewing. I also could not resist a television show in a political setting. “The West Wing” and “24” were serious investments.
Predictably, though, on Wednesday—the day of an election certification that will not be forgotten anytime soon—I fell back into old habits. I wanted to see it happen for myself. Years ago, I had a congressional press pass; if not for the pandemic, I might have been tempted to hop on Amtrak from New York to Washington D.C., to see some of the day’s events—even if just from outside—for myself. I watched for hours and hours while taking phone calls and writing. I did disappear during the Divine Mercy hour to pray for the hour. But after I was through, it was back to absorbing constant commentary. I watched the certification late into the night.
During the coronavirus shutdowns last year, I developed a newfound appreciation for the benefits of praying the Liturgy of the Hours. And so, 24 hours after I listened to Donald Trump at his rally, midday prayer included Psalm 56. This jumped out at me:
When I fear, I will trust in you,
in God whose word I praise.
In God I trust, I shall not fear:
what can mortal man do to me?
As I was overdosing on cable news, I had many emotions—and fear was definitely one of them. After reading these verses, I went to sleep and woke up not thinking about the 25th Amendment. As important as Washington considerations are, I was reminded that I should be thinking about Christ first and last and all day long in between. I should not be frightened, but trusting in Jesus Christ our hope.
As important as Washington considerations are, I was reminded that I should be thinking about Christ first and last and all day long in between.
What comes to the surface when I do a daily Examen at night—which apparently, I thought I was too busy or distracted to do Wednesday night—are both my sins and blessings. We become aware of our faults and bad habits, but we grow in gratitude, too. And while we were saddened and angered by the scene at the Capitol, there is also reason to be grateful that the certification was completed.
Look, I wanted Jeb Bush to be president. I wanted Mitt Romney before that. And I am certainly not overjoyed Joe Biden will be president. But I respect the truth. There was a moment Wednesday night where Nancy Pelosi asked the House to get back to work by invoking St. Francis’ prayer for peace and the Epiphany. America is still rooted in faith, even if it seems but lip service or a manipulation at times. On Wednesday night, the prayer was heartfelt. It was a harrowing day there. That building wasn’t just filled with the members of Congress, but staff, hard-working public servants. There are always good people who work there—on both sides of the aisle—and we should pray for them.
And as for all of us: I always thought that Barack Obama’s campaign slogan, “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” perfectly captured a bipartisan problem we have. We expect too much from politics, more than it can or should provide. Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden—nor my Mitt Romney nor Jeb Bush nor someone else’s choice of Barack Obama—is going to bring peace to the world and solve all illness and poverty. But with a little humility all around, we may just be able to get back to respecting one another and trying to work together, discussing our differences. We all have to model this, whatever our politics, or we cannot expect it from others.
Only prayer can transform us.
And only prayer can help us. Only prayer can transform us. Look around. We need supernatural help. Is not a chief lesson of the past year that we need God? We are weak. I think that is why there can be temptations to idolize a strong man or a type of government. It feels easier when everything seems too much.
Be little. Enough of the bluster. Republicans and Democrats and the politically homeless, all.
So, if you find yourself anxiously clicking on your remote or your phone, wondering what is happening now. Who has resigned? Who has tweeted? What is the next thing to talk about? Put down your phone! Back away from the news! Look to an image of Jesus or the Blessed Mother. Ask for help. Ask for peace. For yourself and for our country. Ask for wisdom all around. Listen in silence. Use Scripture. Pray some of the Liturgy of the Hours. Make time for spiritual reading. Keep your crèche out (or get it out of the closet if it’s already in storage) until the feast of the Presentation of the Lord or beyond. And really look at the Christ Child and realize he is King and we are meant to be like him. That means clinging to him and loving like him. Even—maybe even especially—when it comes to politics.
More from America:
- The pro-life movement must make it clear: Donald Trump does not represent us.
- The assault on the Capitol was horrific. But occupying a legislature can be a legitimate act of protest.
- The attacks on Senator-elect Warnock’s faith and our nation’s Capitol reveal an ugly truth about white religion
- Watch: How to make spiritual sense of the attack on the Capitol