Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I went on a march with my church. I should explain, however, that it wasn’t really a march. It was more of a procession through neighborhoods in the Bay Area city where I moved a year ago. And it wasn’t really a church. It was an oratory, which is a group of Christians connected to a parish but having its own focus, devotions, and even liturgical form. The procession included many families and children.
When I say that I haven’t done this in a while, what I mean is that the purpose of the procession wasn’t solely religious or spiritual. As with most things nowadays, there was a political overtone to the event, although there was no overt support or condemnation of any particular candidate. The event, like others across the nation, was created by a larger organization devoted to Our Lady of Fatima. Admittedly, the older I get, the more I am drawn to this kind of spirituality.
I am also drawn to social and political expressions of that spirituality. To wit, over the past few weeks I have made my thoughts known to county and state officials. I don’t mean I have gone out of my way to write lengthy emails. I haven’t. I’ve simply responded to the electronic newsletters they send out to justify their communications budget. Maybe that’s cynical. Maybe they truly want to hear from their constituents. Well, I am one constituent who is tired of the constant party rhetoric and political posturing. So, I told them so. It’s not as if California doesn’t have serous economic problems. Perhaps they could concentrate on those instead of pandering to their supporters.
Of course, newsletter feedback and a procession don’t amount to much, but at least they count for something. That something is my overcoming fear to take a stand, to step outside my front door. Who knows? It might make politicians realize that not everyone agrees with their agenda. This is especially important in an environment of media manipulation, demagoguery, and violence. And, as everyone knows, things are getting worse, not better. Unfortunately, there’s a reason gun sales have taken off in anticipation of the election next month.
During the procession, organizers handed out a sheet of “intentions” to pray for as people walked along the route. These included an end to all violence and for the “discernment and strength to withstand the trials we face.” How refreshing, I thought. Here was an acknowledgment of individual culpability in the face of social injustice and a call for atonement. In other words, the mess we’re in is as much a spiritual crisis as a political one, perhaps more so.
The oratory is not shy about the source of such violence and injustice, citing Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The battlefield of that struggle is the individual soul, which is why another intention stated, “For those who struggle and hesitate between virtue and vice. May they receive the necessary graces every day to choose virtue over vice.” This jumped up from the page and slapped me in the face. How could it not? I’m certainly one of those who struggle and hesitate. I was voted most likely to do both in high school.
This struggle drives our thinking and behavior and goes on every day, often every hour. We put on our armor, head out, and do battle. Some days we drag ourselves back battered and depressed. Other days we’re able to claim victory, even if only a partial one. What makes the struggle even more exasperating is that–because it is with ourselves–there is no state of neutrality, no safe zone, no spiritual Switzerland to flee to.
Here’s the thing. It ain’t pretty. It ain’t clean. And it ain’t over till, as a wise man in a dugout once said, it’s over. This means we’ll never really prevail without God’s grace. In fact, the struggle is impossible without it.