Recently, I was speaking with a friend who is involved with politics. We were talking about the election, and he told me one of his biggest frustrations is the low level of participation.
Our conversation reminded me about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, otherwise known as Edith Stein (1891-1942). Remarkably intelligent, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy and a university position at a young age. One night, while visiting friends, she found herself in their library and picked out a book from the shelf. She sat and didn’t put it down until the early hours of the next morning. When done, she said out loud, “This is truth.”
The year was 1921. The book was “Book of My Life” by St. Teresa of Avila. And the next year Edith came into the Catholic Church, eventually entering the Carmelite order and taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was of Jewish heritage, however, so she was eventually arrested by the Nazis and sent to her death in Auschwitz in 1942.
So that’s Teresa Benedicta. Now for the reason I remembered her after my conversation with my friend. Once, the nuns in her convent were voicing their frustrations over whom to vote for in the upcoming election. Why vote, they said, when everything is so obviously rigged in favor of the Nazis? What does our vote matter?
St. Teresa Benedicta, who was sitting close by, put her work down and chided her sisters. They must vote, she said, because every opportunity must be taken to voice opposition to injustice. Not to vote meant being silent, and silence becomes approval of injustice.
I thought of this scene because many people today find themselves busy, pulled in so many different directions. But so many people today are deeply concerned about our future. In the last few months, a consistent two-thirds of the nation has said that our country is going in the wrong direction. So many are hurting.
We may be tempted to say in the face of it all, “What’s the point in voting?” But when we are tempted, or when we hear others say it, let’s remember St. Teresa Benedicta’s lesson for us. Not voting means being silent in the face of injustice. Not voting bars us from the opportunity to voice our opposition to injustice and show solidarity with the unborn and the single mom who is struggling.
What’s more, we’re called to do more than vote. Prayer and fasting also are important in the democratic process. We believe in things visible and invisible after all. So let us pray and fast for our nation, for our leaders and our fellow citizens.
Finally, some may be called to run for office. We need Catholics willing to run for office and shape a better future for us all. If you feel called by the Lord, answer that call and he will give you strength.
Let me close by just saying that I pray everyone reading this column votes. If you are in the habit of voting, make sure you encourage your family members and friends to vote. It’s our responsibility and it’s our opportunity to really make a difference. Because if Christianity teaches us anything, it should teach us time and again the difference one voice can make.
St. Teresa Benedicta discovered that so many years ago in that book and we can, too, as we step in the booths to vote.
Omar Gutierrez is manager of the Office of Missions and Justice in the Archdiocese of Omaha. This blog post was adapted for ToGoForth. Read the original version at the Catholic Voice Online.
Catholics around the country are involved in non-partisan efforts to help get out the vote in their communities. Read about one effort here.