by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv
Bishop-President, Pax Christi USA

I doubt that any of us expected to wake up on November 4th ready to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with the neighbors whose yard signs offended us for the last several weeks. But I for one was hoping for a resounding vote for participatory democracy as we know it, for a measured and scientific approach to the current global pandemic, for humanitarian and life-affirming policies at our southern border, for affirmation of human rights and dignity, for confirming the importance of three separate but equal branches of government in our constitution, for civility and decency, for facts and the truth, for progress in dismantling systematic racism… for normalcy. Instead, even with final results hours, days or weeks away, I feel like I woke up on Christmas morning with coal in my stocking. Not only a letdown, but an occasion to ask, “what did I do wrong?” or “what did I get wrong?”

Was it misplaced to think that our American values and ideals, never fully realized but always a solid point of reference, would drive the majority of voters? Was I naïve in trusting that people know better than to accept as fact that which is clear and obvious fabrication? I hope not, but I still find myself questioning. As a person of faith, I look towards God for answers knowing full well that God is pretty mysterious when it comes to methods of revelation. Still, God speaks. And the words that came to me so clearly in prayer this morning are from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 —words I am much more comfortable recommending to others than putting into practice myself — “in all circumstances give thanks.”

Gratitude is an attitude changer for sure. When I began to figure out how to give thanks, I thought of our Black sisters and brothers joined by hundreds and thousands of others on the streets of our cities and rural communities to affirm that Black Lives Matter. I thought of the Parkland High School students who worked so hard to remind the nation that we are to be self-governing and want so badly to spare others the horror that they experienced. I thought of Dreamers who continue to work hard and study hard and embody all of the values, effort and energy of my immigrant grandparents and those who came to this land in previous generations. I thought of the outcry that this nation made so loudly that the separation of children from parents at the border had to stop — at least temporarily. I thought of groups of people all over the nation who joined in prayer and with an eager desire to reconcile their highest Catholic morals with the choices in front of them on the ballot. And I thought of the women who first took to the streets to demonstrate that in a democracy all voices have to be heard. I thought of Pope Francis in his latest encyclical asking aloud why we didn’t allow the global threat of a pandemic to solidify our global solidarity. I also thought about the wisdom, if not the impracticality of the path forward that he indicates, of the recognition that we are all brothers and sisters needing to work for the common good. 

I am grateful to be associated with Pax Christi and ever-more appreciative of the three-fold process employed by our members: prayer, study and action. While my first instinct this morning was to act, I realized it was better to start with prayer—and what could I do anyway? Prayer will lead to study as I realize the need not just to complain about the way things are and what didn’t happen, but to ponder and discern a way forward. The time for action will come soon enough. Whoever attains the magic 270 electoral votes will need to be held accountable. Whoever leads us forward will need help in uniting a bitterly divided nation. Whoever emerges as president will need to be reminded that our democracy is fragile, to be cherished, and needs serious repair.

Waiting is never easy. At the end of this month, we enter into our annual liturgical waiting as the world around us rushes to celebrate the commerce of Christmas. When we wait in Advent, we are told it is not merely a passive waiting — we are to wait and watch and discover the signs of the Messiah’s nearness even as we wait. I hope we can transfer that lesson to our present political circumstances.

We pray for a just and peaceful conclusion to these elections and for all who will be affected by the outcome. We study the story of our democracy, the teachings of our faith, and how they work together to promote the dignity of the human person and progress for the common good. And we will work to make that vision become real, and to be instruments of healing for all who have been excluded and do not have the luxury of waiting.

24 thoughts on ““Waiting is never easy”, reflections for this day after from our bishop-president, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv

  1. Thank you, Bishop Stowe, for your reasoned and prayerful response. I need to read and hear voices which bring a sense of calm to my soul. As a fairly new member of Pax Christi, I am grateful for the messages of peace. My soul, our country and the world needs it.

  2. Bishop Stowe, You have described exactly how I feel today. Bewildered. Wondering was I wrong about who Americans are? Is the disregard of morality and truth a harbinger of our future politics and, if so, how will we survive? I temper these feelings praying, but our hope is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth and He is full of wonderful surprises. Thank you for your leadership, Sir.

    Fr Des Rossi, Albany, NY

  3. Bishop Stowe, yes, thank you for this article in response to the election. Your words bring a sense of calm and comfort in the midst of what seems so perplexing but they also offer a constructive challenge about how to move forward, no matter the end result. Beginning with prayer to ground us and then strengthen our resolve to keep working for the common good. Your leadership is a blessing. Fr. Paul Jaroszeski, Ramsey, MN

  4. Thanks Bishop for your kind words of faith, wisdom, patience, and telling yourself to pray first; I watched the election news until 3 a .m. CST and went to bed. I was up at 5:30 a.m. because I could not sleep. When I awoke my prayer was simply “Dear God Get In My Head Before I Do.” AMEN. Thank you for the prayer and your kind spiritual guidance. God Bess You. God Bless America.

  5. Thank you, Bishop Stowe, for being with God’s people. Thank you for being a caring shepherd. Thank you for being a light….May God continue to bless you with wisdom and strength and love and all that he knows you need.

  6. It’s so calming to read your words written just a few hours ago. Like you I wonder why our nation can be so torn apart with seemingly different values and goals. The divisions continue to widen and we must find our way back. I pray that our next President and all our elected leaders will find a way to heal our suffering nation. Thank you Bishop John for inspiration.

  7. I pray that once our fight for political liberty has been won, that our struggle for peace, justice and unity can begin in earnest!

  8. The problem is, many people I associate with found little favor with either candidate. We were left with a choice between a bombastic and confrontational incumbent vs. an old man with failing mental capacity. We wondered, is this the best the Democrats have to offer? Seriously!?? If Trump did not heed his advisors then Biden will be controlled by advisors. Trump was villified for doing everything wrong even when correct. Biden will be lauded for doing everything right even when wrong. And nothing will change much. Those who have power will maintain power while those who do not will be left out. What happened to hold your nose and vote as a reality for our times?

  9. Here is what I have contemplated this morning as I think of God and his Kingdom, and what is truly important in this earthly life; turns out it is not this earthly life at all, or any election result or no result. We have a duty to pray and speak up for those without voices, preeminently those in the womb. I am confounded even more when I don’t hear this clear message; and, as I prepare for the start of the Novena for Christ the King I think of Pope St. John Paul II and what he wrote:

    He spoke about this feast, and the title of Christ the King, in a homily from 2000:

    “You are King! But your kingdom is not of this world… Yours is a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace,” which will be revealed in its fullness at the end of time, when God will be all in all. The Church, which can already taste on earth the first fruits of this future fulfillment, never ceases to repeat: “Adveniat regnum tuum”, “Thy kingdom come.”

    Pax Christi to all my brothers and sisters.

  10. Bishop John Stowe,

    Thank you for your very inspiring reflections.

    I especially enjoyed being reminded that gratitude and forgiveness are paths to healing.

    May I add that another of our paths forward (no matter which “Side” we are on) is to reach out to the other and smile and greet each as our fellow brother / sister– of not only our national family but the human family–all as children of God. Not enemies. Then listen compassionately and share and understand better where each is coming from…. from fear? from judgement? …. Moment by moment, minute by minute–yes it is a slow process.
    And if someone is still an enemy after that, Jesue offers perfect guidance: Love your enemy. That is the peace of Christ.

    Good luck everybody.

  11. Thank you Bishop Stowe, for making that call to prayer and to fidelity to the cause of justice. This gratitude to you is joined to my thanks to Pope Francis and his vision of our being sisters and brothers called to live and work together. We are being called to be faithful, and so we shall be. “JUSTICE – what LOVE looks like in public.” Cornell West

  12. As a n active “lifer” in the Pax Christi movement, along with our P.C. membership, I am delighted and more, that our episcopal leader is speaking out for justice and peace. Thanks Bishop Stowe. We pray for the faith and courage to respond to your leadership. A quote; “JUSTICE is what LOVE looks like in public.” Cornel West

  13. Well Written, John. Moving forward after the election should not be as winners or losers, but as brothers and sisters. There is still much to be done.
    Tom Smith OFM Conv.

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