Let’s make this Election Day a kind of “Feast of All Saint-Candidates,” following up on the Catholic Church’s recent “Feast of All Saints.” I’ll explain this modest proposal, but first I’ll acknowledge its flaws. They’re found in the candidates we’re voting for—and, of course, in us voters too.
Indeed, there’s some wordsmithing, or “spin,” going on with my invitation to a feast. No liturgist or other common-sense person would declare Election Day to be a “feast” per se; for one thing, it seems our ballot options don’t often give us much to celebrate.
And my use of the term “Saint-Candidates” carries a touch of disinformation. I’m not suggesting that many, or any, political candidates of any party are saints. Alas, we’re still summoned to vote and to set high standards for the people we select, regardless of their creeds or backgrounds or character flaws.
I use the term in quotes to remind us that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says we are a “communion of saints” (CCC 946) insofar as we are a communion “in holy things” and “among holy persons.” (CCC 948) The book says we are “pilgrims on earth,” very much in need of God’s mercy to work through our imperfections. (CCC 962) “All are called to holiness,” (CCC 2013), although we’re not knocking on heaven’s door quite yet. d
I’m not speaking of “saintly candidates” but of “candidates for sainthood,” who need to tap into the graces shared by the entire communion of saints, including those we honored on the Nov. 1 feast. Today, Nov. 6, is a day for the rest of us, called to make the best of earthly systems of politics and governance that are tainted by the Seven Capital Sins. Those sins are clearly named for our state capitals, as well as Washington, DC!
Even with this watered-down definition, I think it’s worthwhile to ponder on Election Day that there is a dignity in being a candidate for sainthood despite one’s flaws. This is a candidacy we share. It’s important not to lose hope on this day, or in its aftermath on Nov. 7, though we have been subjected to a panoply of campaign commercials in which political opponents have condemned each other as liars, and far worse.
Our collective woundedness is on display in a big way these days. We need to remember, for ourselves and for those on the ballot, that God works through our flaws and mistakes even as he works through the moments of grace that raise us higher, so long as we’re receptive and responsive in prayer and action and good will. While the lead-up to elections may be filled with rallies and noise, persuasion and persecution, the moment of voting can be a time of quiet, solitary humility.
The lack of “saintly candidates” shouldn’t deter us from voting for “candidates for sainthood.” Even if it’s hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm for a particular politician, it’s worthwhile to discern how we pilgrims (fellow candidates) can accompany each other through an election. We listen and then exercise our voting power wisely, even as we share hopeful prayers that God will help us keep our respective “campaign promises.” Marching amid the disinformation, distractions, and distrust we’re supposed to shed along the roadside, we journey in search of communion with our higher natures—our faith, hope, and love. We’re seeking holiness that can’t be found in political allegiances, but in trusting the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
If candidates look like they will accompany us, we might want simply to try accompanying them. They are not products to love or hate, and we must not consume them with resentment or rage. We and they are under construction, sure to face challenges that will change us, and we’ll have to get through those messes together. These are powerful calls to solidarity.
As the Catechism puts it apolitically, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him … For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (CCC 2012)
Now that sounds like a reason for a feast—a feast fit for non-kings. Enjoy the moment of casting a ballot. It’s our grace before the meal, the humble time we realize we’re hungry. We’re being fed, but the best saint-candidates won’t be satisfied until we all can say, along with St. Paul, we’ve run the race that really matters.