It’s almost as if November’s Mass readings were written for election-weary Catholics, with their foreboding tones and calls for “perseverance” and “endurance” amid distress.
“They will seize you and persecute you,” St. Luke warns.
“Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” St. Paul exhorts.
Polls confirm what Facebook makes clear: We were disgusted by this presidential campaign. And when your two candidates registered record highs in unfavorable ratings, we knew many would be unhappy no matter the victor.
Election Day, in many ways, resolved very little; the commercials have ceased and the yard signs have been taken down, but the discord lingers.
The interviews I conducted this fall revealed a disenchanted electorate. I spoke to a 69-year-old farmer in Iowa who was harvesting soybeans. This year had brought his highest yield ever — 83 bushels an acre — a measure of consolation amid political turmoil. “I’m getting to a point where I don’t like to turn the news on,” he told me. “I’d rather think about the beans.”
But it was hard to escape, and even at the grain elevator, he found himself discussing Donald Trump’s tax returns. He shook his head at the daily allegations of sexual assault. “Is this what our country has come to?”
A college student hanging out at Barnes & Noble on a Friday afternoon lamented the relationship young voters now have with American politics. “For a lot of my peers, it’s become tainted,” he said, casting his eyes downward. “Many first-time voters feel like they have to pick the lesser of two evils.”
Surely, he added, the discourse during the final weeks before Election Day had marked a rock bottom in the history of our presidential campaigns. “It can’t get worse.”
He still scanned headlines, but he’d stopped reading the articles. “It just makes me feel worse about my day.”
An Ohio 20-something making his way in New York City — the kind of earnest Catholic who has always been concerned about the arc of the moral universe — tweeted grimly: “2016 has only confirmed my suspicion that ‘unity’ is a sly rhetorical device used to silence difficult criticism.”
A 30-year-old Target supervisor told me she’d boycotted TV since early October. “It’s been a lot more peaceful,” she said. The presidential campaign found her relying, more than ever, on her morning devotional, “an armor against negativity.” She smiled brightly: “I have faith! I have faith in God that everything’s going to be OK.”
I found a reprieve from all the noise last weekend on a solo road trip across Wisconsin. Sailing along in my gray Honda Accord, I felt blanketed by a patchwork of autumn foliage — burning crimson and rusted gold amid deep greens, white slices of birch forming the stitches. The quiet refrain rang through my head: “How great thou art.”
It is a time for prayer, for humor and generosity, for little neighborly deeds that make the world feel right again. In a word: mercy.
I circled back to November’s Mass readings, and this time the power of hope stood out amid looming turmoil. We hear of “redemption” and “forgiveness,” of the Lord’s house being raised up as the highest mountain, toward which “all nations shall stream.”
It is a time to trust in the bigger picture, in that which we cannot see but believe, St. Paul reminds us. “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him . . . ”
In a splintered era, Christ offers us fullness that is not of this world.
He is the glue when the center threatens to fall through. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”