The theme for this week’s  Walking in Solidarity Lenten Series is “Living in Solidarity: Work, Family and Citizenship.” Today we talk about some wonderful resources provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that can help you understand your position as a citizen who can affect change for others.

For the 2007 election, the USCCB realized a document for people to use to form their election choices and be able to contribute to public dialogue. Revised and published again in 2011, the document is called
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.”

According to the Bishops:
“It does not offer a voter’s guide, scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.

The four main points of the document are:

  1. defending human life
  2. promoting family life
  3. pursuing social justice
  4. practicing global solidarity

Even though it is not election season, this Lent could be a good time to reflect on how your actions as a “faithful citizen” – from voting to writing your legislator to participating in the community – affect others.

Taking it further

The USCCB has a great resource associated with its Faithful Citizenship campaign called, “Nine New Ways to Pray.” Here are our three favorites (with our own added suggestions) that you could try during this Lenten season, either on your own or with others, in order to grow in solidarity with the global community:

1. The Newspaper Prayer – Select an article about an issue mentioned in “Faithful Citizenship,” (you can find a long list on the left side of this page), and consider how human dignity is affected by the issue or situation. Ask for God’s healing and transformation for all people impacted, lawmakers, and citizens like yourself. Ask God how he is asking you to respond to this issue.  

This prayer could be good for a community of youth or adults to do together to reflect on current events or local issues. Using a format like this, our own intentional community of young adult volunteers in Washington, D.C. has had interesting discussions on topics such as the military and homelessness.

2. The Prayer Box: On small slips of paper, write issues about which you are concerned, potentially drawing from examples in the USCCB’s Faithful Citizen literature. Put the papers inside a plain or decorated shoe box. During your prayer time each day, pick one or two slips of paper out of the box and pray for those impacted by injustices related to the issues, for policymakers, and for the ability to listen to how God might be calling you to respond.  

A family could use this prayer to engage children by including them in decorating the box. Instead of (or in addition to) the slips of paper, have children fill the box with newspaper photos or small items from around the home that represent issues to pray for (ie: an empty soup can to symbolize the hungry). Continue to add items or slips of paper over time as you think of things. Let children take turns drawing the slips or items from the box at prayer time.

3. The Map Prayer – Pick a place on a map in which you are not very familiar. Educate yourself on issues that are affecting that area, and then spend some quiet time praying for the people who live there.

Might we suggest praying for Cochabamba, Bolivia and Nairobi, Kenya? These are the two communities where our missioners currently serve. They share their stories and experiences regularly through our blog and other communications. 

If this Lent you are trying to explore social justice issues with your family, class, or community, you could use one of the hands-on activities the USCCB designed in association with the Faithful Citizenship campaign:

  • Justice, Fairness and Changing the Rules: The Candy Game – This game helps participants realize the difference between charity and social justice, as well as understand that as a result of God’s creation, each person enjoys special dignity. 
  • Poverty and Justice: The Bean Game –  The game introduces participants to the fundamental causes of poverty. Also, the game teaches that God gave everyone talents and that we are called to help those suffering from poverty.