At the monastery, over the past four or five years, we have received increasingly frequent requests to pray for peace and unity in our country. There’s been a sense that we had, politically, passed a point of no return, and that the very fabric of our republic is now at stake. As followers of Christ, Who broke down all separating walls, we monks are dedicated to a peaceful political order, rooted in true justice and respect for the dignity of all human beings.
One hesitates to see in an epidemic an answer to one’s prayers, but I have been quite impressed by how Americans have managed, in many cases, to set aside political and ideological differences in order to work together for our common benefit to mitigate the damage of the novel coronavirus. Americans, as a whole, have been remarkably cooperative with the difficult decisions made by politicians at different levels. People are eagerly sharing information, discussing how to deal with children studying at home, offering suggestions for reading and cooking during our “social distancing,” and so on. Perhaps we will look back at this time as an unexpected opportunity to reimagine the humanity in all our brothers and sisters, especially those most vulnerable. If we seek this humbly from God, undoubtedly, He will offer His grace in this potential healing.
I’ve been around long enough to recognize that politicians are, and need to be, opportunists, and so we should be wary of assuming that words will be followed by commensurate action. But any words that indicate solidarity across the aisle open a path for the rest of us to seek our own stance of unity, mutual edification, and reconciliation. As Saint John Paul II demonstrated in his battle against the Communist Party in Poland in the 1970’s, even words spoken cynically by politicians, can, and should, be used by the electorate to seek the goods of justice, good order, and, ultimately, peace.