Before I come barreling out of the gates (forgive the bull riding analogy, I am Texan), I want to make it clear that this post is written for one person: 2019 Kathryn, the person I once was. It’s my prayer that a few of you might find some solidarity in that.

Politics.

That one word makes us all uncomfortable, doesn’t it? But you know what two words should make us more uncomfortable?

The Gospels.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve “arrived.” But, I’m writing this from a place of humility, knowing that I have some serious heart work to do when it comes to living a life rooted in Christ’s teachings.

As we embark on an election season – in an age of social media where everything is analyzed and criticized in seconds – my heart finds itself weary. I’m betting yours is, too, no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself.

Somewhere along the way, we started making politicians idols, saviors of our problems. Then, we took it a step further and started demonizing and villifying people on the other side. How many times have I heard, “Well, you can’t be a faithful Christian and vote for XYZ candidate.”

Can I be completely vulnerable and admit something to you? Not only have I heard that statement, I’ve said it. Believed it.

And then, 2020.

A few weeks ago I heard an interview with Sr. Helen Prejean, the famous religious sister that inspired the 1995 movie, Dead Man Walking, about an inmate on death row and her relationship with him as his spiritual director. It was her emphatic, “exposure to something gives you an appreciation for the experience.” And, in a written interview with Busted Halo, she said this:

“The gospel of Jesus and conversion of heart doesn’t happen, for the most part, simply by the hierarchy of the church…That’s not the conversion journey of what it means to follow the gospel. There has to be a change of heart and you have to arrive at that change of heart by bringing people through their own emotions.”

Sr. Helen Prejean, bustedhalo.com

With each jarring event of 2020 – wildfires, deaths of celebrities, pandemics, murder hornets, racial tension, cancellation of sports, closures of schools, a Dr Pepper shortage (what?!), dual hurricanes and more wildfires – I found myself not only hitting my knees, but asking Jesus what he was trying to refine out of me. Just what needed burning down and what needed building up?

I started reaching out to friends and acquaintences that hold different beliefs and have experienced different upbringings, yet who adhere to the same Gospel message I do. We started talking. I started listening. And something shifted. I could hear Sr. Helen’s words, “there has to be a change of heart and you have to arrive at that change of heart by bringing people through their own emotions.”

Difference doesn’t have to be discord, nor division. If there were an easy answer, particularly in political elections, our choices would be simple. But they aren’t. They’re complicated and nuanced and require an informed conscience. What I’m coming to realize is that I can strongly dislike someone’s political leanings, but it doesn’t mean I have permission to villify them, question their faith or admonish who they are.

More than a decade ago, I found myself in the NICU (the neonatal intensive care unit) and it was the deepest, darkest, hardest valley of my life. Those 44 days felt like 44 years. I have the gray hair to prove it. But throughout our preemie’s journey, there was the friend who brought us a meal, the families who raised money to help us pay medical bills, the fellow mom who held my baby while I sobbed in the hospital shower, the marriage counselor who helped us put our life back together and the NICU mentor who gave me hope.

And you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t ask a single one who they voted for, and if I had it wouldn’t have mattered one damn bit.

Why?

Because in the most hellacious pit of my life, they were present for me. They were Jesus to me, my kids and my husband. And that’s what God asks of us. To live a Gospel life. And, for American Christians, that means that no political party has gotten it totally right because none of them represent the Gospel message.

I think 2020 reminded me of that: to see someone’s humanity before I saw their bumper sticker. Because at the end of the day, there is no red or blue section in heaven, y’all. It’s what you do here, in this life. How you love people on the fringes. What you do with your privilege. How you share your story and your experience with love to instigate change. How you meet people right where they are and find a path to get them closer to Jesus.

Who am I to look at someone’s heart and judge it based on their ballot? I’m sure glad Jesus doesn’t. He looks at the totality of our lives. He sees our failings and our wins, our heartaches and our joys and He sees us as worthy.

Perhaps, as we form our voting conscience we can remember that worth, that dignity of every human person. We can see one another as sinners, stumbling toward heaven. Sometimes, we get it right and other times, the fall is pretty painful.

Please Jesus, help me to live a Gospel life. Help me realize the work you want me to do and not judge my brothers and sisters for the work you need them to do.

Help me lead with love. Always.

27 Comments

  1. Megan DiTeresa on August 24, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Wow Kathryn. That was BEAUTIFULLY written. I too have been trying to process exactly what you just unpacked, and you just helped it all crystallize for me. Thank you for this!!!!!!

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Love you and your heart, Megan! And I miss seeing you. Torchy’s soon!

      • Megan DiTeresa on August 24, 2020 at 1:01 pm

        I miss you too, and YES to Torchy’s soon!

  2. Katie on August 24, 2020 at 8:33 am

    This is so beautiful Kathryn. Thank you so much-I plan to share it widely. It is a much needed message for these times. Miss you!

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Thank you. So much!

  3. Grandma Connie on August 24, 2020 at 8:35 am

    This reminded me of a comment that a good friend of mine made this past winter. We were out to dinner prior to the pandemic. We had a fun day at the ballpark… Go Twins!!! Stopped at a beach and then a beachside restaurant for dinner. As we began to discuss some of the daily happenings she says “ I wish that trumps place would fall off into the ocean”. We have been friends for 45 of our 60 years and we are on opposite sides of the political ballot. But I love her. She is a beautiful loving and giving woman who loves God, country and her family. This comment shocked me. I looked at her and said “ I did not agree with the Obama administration on many issues, but I never wished Ill upon him or his family. In fact I prayed for them all the time. I can’t imagine the sacrifices their families have made when they lead the country” . She put her head down and realized that what I said was very true. Who one votes for does not define who you are as a person. I recall a wonderful priest saying to me, “sometimes voting is about choosing the lesser of two evils”. We all know that whomever is voted for is not personally responsible for every decision being made at every abortion clinic in the country. I was not raised Catholic . I did not understand abortion to be evil growing up. My mother had a back alley abortion in 1971. God calls us to love beyond what we think we are capable of. We have to offer love to those who do not know God and know of His love for them. Judging others by a ballot is not of God. Be generous, loving, kind and offer love to all even those you might see as the “enemy” end divisive behavior. Love and blessings .

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2020 at 8:46 am

      “Judging others by a ballot is not of God.” Let’s get that on a tshirt!!

      • Grandma Connie on August 24, 2020 at 9:32 am

        Haha we should!! Gotta spread the love and hope!!

  4. Colleen on August 24, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Bravo! More of this, please.

    I wish we could go back to the days of yesteryear when we didn’t discuss our politics in “polite company” … there was wisdom in that.

    For much of my professional life, I have been surrounded by people who had very different political views than mine. Because I kept my mouth shut, I didn’t argue and I didn’t judge (because I was trying to be a professional), they assumed I agreed with them or didn’t have an opinion. And we got along and even sometimes became friends.

    Then social media happened. Ugh.

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2020 at 8:47 am

      Yep!! But I believe we can reclaim it. We have to be unafraid to love them, no matter what.

  5. Nicole on August 24, 2020 at 8:40 am

    “Please Jesus, help me to live a Gospel life. Help me realize the work you want me to do and not judge my brothers and sisters for the work you need them to do.

    Help me lead with love. Always.”

    ^^^ So much yes. Amen.

  6. VStu on August 24, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Extremely well written. It is evident that you wrote this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I pray that everyone reads with an open heart and that nobody goes on attack mode. If so, I apologize here to you because you wrote this with every good intention and in PURPLE (get it…red & blue combined makes purple) – its Monday & NY humor not as witty as you’ll (cant even spell you all) in Texas. Thank you. I think our brsins are becoming wired to be like pit bulls these days. Oh no, now all the animal rights activists will scream at me!

  7. Marcy on August 24, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Thank you for posting! This was beautifully said. 💗

  8. Elda on August 24, 2020 at 9:24 am

    WOW!!!! I love you!!!!! AND there best be a football season!!!!🏈❤️🤘🏼

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Amen sister

  9. Melissa on August 24, 2020 at 10:13 am

    I’ve been processing the political divide so much lately and internally verbalizing my thoughts. It’s been so scattered and a little tense up there in my head. Your words are much more eloquent and bring much peace. Thanks for touching on this subject and the reminder to lead with love.

  10. Nicole on August 24, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Loved this! I was just thinking yesterday about the conscience- binding statement “If you’re Catholic, you can’t vote X…” statements I’m seeing everywhere. Thank you for expressing this so well!

  11. Karen on August 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Wow. I thought your post from a few weeks ago on Charity was the best thing ever and now this. Thank you.

  12. Tracy on August 24, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Agreed – I thought your Charity post was amazing and this is just huge. Thank you for being vulnerable and brave and having such a big heart. Truly “Catholic” of you.

  13. David Kashangaki on August 24, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Thank you for dropping the politics Kathryn and expressing a higher value. I wish conversation could be at this higher level. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing what really matters. It isn’t who we vote for that matters, but how we are Christ to our neighbors and those in need. Blessings!

  14. Anon on August 24, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    I’m curious if anyone has a good way to charitably address the issue of the “required Catholic vote”? When I’ve tried to address voting for or against a specific candidate as not required by Church I’ve been told I’m wrong at best and I’m complicit in abortion at worst. Both in person and online. This isn’t my post to discuss it, but I’m searching for some way to handle this.

  15. Alby Peters on August 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    When I read all of your Spirit given messages, I always think “Wow, I knew her when( and that has always been a plus). I was delighted that you would be our Right to Life banquet speaker. Who will introduce you? I would like too. Much love to you and sweet family.

  16. Verda Redman on August 27, 2020 at 12:17 am

    Kathryn, how did you get so wise at such a young age? I still aspire to be you when I grow up!

  17. Deacon Bob on August 27, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Kathryn, thank you for writing this. I am a deacon, a retired prosecutor, and an army infantry veteran. Because of my experience in life, the area of pro-life that I have dedicated myself to is to stem violence, especially gun violence. This has caused friction at times with parishioners in the parish I have served, even to the point of point of being told that I am pro abortion. Various protest in America right now use the language “say their names.” For me that name is “Tara.” I met Tara, on July 8, 1991, the day after .44 magnum bullet ended her life at age seventeen, her lifeless body was on an autopsy table as the pathologist explained the cause of death, although it was obvious. Tara’s “sin” you might ask… Looking for a party with some friends on a rural Iowa backroad, and asking directions of the wrong group of people. I prosecuted and convicted the shooter. In 2018 I talked about Tara to an assembly of our Catholic High School shortly after the Parkland shootings, the very night after that talk I happened to run into Tara’s parents. They thanked me for what I did for them, twenty-seven years later. It brings tears to my eyes as I write about it now. But hers is not only the only name; there is Jack, who was fixated on handguns, and went out on bought one on his twenty-first birthday, the first day he could do so legally. Several nights later he knocked on his neighbor’s door. The neighbor’s name was Della, she was eighty and a widow. Jack shot her five times because he wanted to see what his new gun would do to a human being, and well, Della was old and alone. I prosecuted Jack and he has since died in prison. Then there was Maria. Maria was fixated on a man named Larry who was a dozen years her senior from the time she was twelve. When she was eighteen she ran into him in their small towns tavern. An affair ensued and by the time Maria was nineteen, Larry, who was no knight in shining armor, had used her in every way he could and had moved on. Maria wanted Larry dead, but knew she couldn’t pull the trigger, so she hired hired a young guy named Jessie to kill him for the agreed on fee of three hundred dollars. Jessie borrowed a handgun from a roommate. Maria only demand was to be present to watch. There was no mystery when Larry’s body was found in his car on the side of the road on Valentine’s Day 1996. I convicted Maria of second degree murder, Jessie of first. I try to pray for each of these people, violence affects the lives of every one involved, even the one inflicting the violence. I am sorry that this is turned into such a screed. Your article touched a nerve in a good way. We are expecting our fourth grandchild in November; I want a better, less violent world for that child and for every child of God, for we are all God’s children. God bless you and your family, and I hope you are safe from the storm.

    • Kathryn on August 28, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Deacon Bob, you’ve left me speechless with your vulnerability, your love and your witness. I sat in my car last night and wept as I read this. I shared your words on social media and I woke up with them on my heart today. May we all be such witnesses to humanity, to the pain and suffering and to doing what God asks of us. He has certainly planted this on your heart to share and I am deeply grateful. Your witness is changing lives and opening minds. Keep on keeping on. I’m so honored you chose to share this with me and my readers.

      • Deacon Bob on September 10, 2020 at 9:28 pm

        Sorry for the slow reply, LuAnn, my wife, and I have been in the process of moving across Iowa in the last few month to be closer to our daughter’s family, and we have been doing much of it ourselves because of this pandemic. I had not been paying much attention to emails and such. The gospel of this morning’s Mass reminded me of you blog entry. I went back to read it again, and when I did I saw your touching reply.

        These are the last few verses of today’s passage from Luke: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with. which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

        We need this guidance so much now, everyone of us.

        I hope you and your family were safe from the storms. Around the the first of October LuAnn and I will be heading to Chicago where our son and family live. Because of the high transmission rate in Iowa, we will have to quarantine for fourteen days, we then want to be available to care for our two year old granddaughter, Francie, when her little brother. or sister arrives. Remember us in you prayers, and we will. do the same. God bless you and your family.

  18. Abbey on September 1, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    This reminds me so much of – https://catholicconfessional.com/act-with-charity/
    I think that all of us need a reminder to be more charitable and open to others, especially those who have different thoughts and feelings in regards to politics. We all are not the same, but that does not mean we can’t get along with one another.

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