As our tumultuous election cycle in the United States draws to a close, we have a special responsibility as Catholics to promote peace, understanding, and tolerance in response to whatever results the election gives us. In this spirit, we invite you to pray a novena for tolerance with us, beginning today, Election Day, and ending on the International Day for Tolerance, November 16.
Our duty of educating ourselves is one that has no end. There is no definable goal we are trying to reach; we do not stop learning when we think we know enough, or when we feel comfortable. There is always more for us to learn.
Despite all the doomsday warnings we received about this year’s election, the world did not end when the polls closed. We continue on today, and our communities survive.
Community, in fact, can be a great source of strength and healing for us. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether we voted the same way our neighbors voted—they are still our neighbors, and we are knit together in a community that must work in harmony in order to function.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:9 are very familiar to us. They are part of the Beatitudes, and so we hold up peace as an important value in our lives.
As we pray this novena leading to the International Day for Tolerance, it becomes evident that there can be no peace without tolerance. Peace, a fruit of the Spirit, is also a fruit of tolerance.
There are some issues that are so big, they cannot be limited to the decisions of a single person. These issues also have far-reaching effects. These issues are of global significance.
Famine. War. Economics. All these issues are global. They can affect a single country and create ripples throughout the rest of the world; or, they can affect multiple countries at the same time, and create even bigger ripples.
In nearly every election, there is a sizable minority that did not get what it wanted. Whether it is a candidate who didn’t get elected or a policy question that went differently than we expected, elections seem to be set up for bitter disappointment on at least one side.
If you were to think of a single word to describe this election cycle, that word probably would not be “gentle.” In fact, it would probably be something a lot closer to its opposite. But elections and difference of opinion do not inherently lack gentleness. It is in our approach to conflict that we find a place for gentleness to rest.
One of the hardest things in life can be standing with (or, even more so, standing up for) those with whom we fiercely disagree. Yet Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Disagreeing with a person does not make your opponent any less human. Even if someone is severely misguided or malicious in their opinions and actions, that person is still a human being and a child of God. As Catholics, we believe that, by God’s grace, redemption is possible for such a person.
Today, the final day of our novena, is the International Day for Tolerance. Tolerance for others who think or act differently than we do is certainly an important step toward living in peace with one another. As we continue to heal from any spiritual ills we have endured, tolerance is a good thing to strive for.
It is not, however, a stopping point. More than simply tolerating one another, we are called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a goal for which we must never stop working.