ANN ARBOR, Michigan, JUNE 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here are excerpts from the text of U.S. Senator Sam Brownback’s commencement address at Ave Maria Law School delivered on May 18. The Republican from Kansas is a recent convert to Catholicism.
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Living the Christian Life in the Public Square
By Senator Sam Brownback
St. Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians and lawyers — two professions that desperately need a patron saint — taught that “man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality.” St. Thomas More stood boldly as a sign of contradiction in his own society by refusing to be separated from God when political pressure sought to separate politics from morality.
You have the same calling. The example of St. Thomas More, like that of all the saints, is one that we all must follow in our daily lives. I think it is this example that we must all heed as we struggle to turn the ordinary events of our daily lives into true opportunities of loving and serving God, the Church and all souls with the same fervor with which our Lord performed his simple and humble, life-changing service to us.
We can begin to follow that example by living unity of life. Unity of life is an important Catholic principle that helps keep the totality of our life here on earth in its proper balance. By unity of life, I mean living one’s faith fully while living and working in the middle of the world. Our faith should form our decisions and animate our actions, whether we work as politicians, carpenters, social workers, doctors or yes, even as lawyers.
Our faith is who we are. When we fail to live our faith in our daily lives, or fail to allow ourselves to be shaped by the loving providence of God, we fail to live fully the lives God wants us to live. Our faith and our daily life in the world cannot and should not be separated.
To live unity of life we must realize that we have all been called to holiness. That call involves our cooperation with God in the conversion of our hearts, families and in the conversion of our culture. It does not matter what our station is in life, we must all work to sanctify our daily lives. It is by doing this that we perform the most effective witness we can.
As some of you may know, this Easter marked my first as a Roman Catholic. I was deeply struck by the beauty of the Easter celebration. Our call to live faithful lives in the world is beautifully demonstrated in the Easter liturgy in so many ways. During the Easter Vigil, as the candle slowly processes from the back of the Church to the altar, we are reminded of how the power of Christ shattered the darkness. As we participate in that life-giving act of God, we become candles of light shattering the darkness for those around us.
What a powerful witness we are called to be. We have to convert the culture by our own example; we have to convert the culture by being good Christians and by being good citizens.
You will have to convert the culture by being good lawyers, and many of you will have to convert the culture by also being good parents. We start the conversion of our culture in our daily lives — we begin with ourselves and with our families.
I think we all have a responsibility to do our duty to God and family regardless of whatever pressures the culture or society may place upon us. It seems we need to keep in mind that in our very families we are raising the next generation of citizens; the best thing we can do, therefore, to convert the culture, other than through living our daily call to holiness, is to raise good families with members that are properly formed in their faith and duty.
They are the next generation of Christians and also the next generation of citizens. We change the culture by being good citizens and by being good parents. It is the duty of every parent to instill within their children the fundamentals of the faith. God trusts us with the upbringing of these little ones only for a time; we should not fail to perform that duty to the fullest. It is what will transform our culture.
You also have to convert the culture through your work. When Mother Teresa visited the United States just a few months before she died she said something incredible to me: “All for Jesus, All for Jesus, All for Jesus.”
“All for Jesus” was one of the most simple and yet most profound things she could have said. If we, as individuals, of whatever means or resources, do it “all for Jesus,” every day of our lives, we fulfill our duties and responsibilities as Christians.
To do this we must never give up the struggle to live lives of personal sanctity in the midst of our world. I am convinced that only through our prayer, and our example we can have the impact on our world that we are called to have. Mother Teresa faithfully lived her call to witness the light of our Christian faith to the “poorest of the poor.”
You have the same call; you have the same challenge. You will meet, every day, the “poorest of the poor” — ironically, they won’t seem to be the poorest of the poor, and you might not always recognize their poverty. But they are. They will be the ones working alongside you in corporate America, in the courtroom, or in whatever circumstances you find yourself. Spiritual poverty, of course, is the most debilitating poverty that exists, for it fills the soul with a false sense of worldly security while leaving the soul starved of the nourishment that only Christ can provide.
Many of you will bring Christ to the spiritually poor; others of you, I would challenge to bring Christ to the physically poor as well. Clearly, much work is needed in the world to bring Christ to those who are suffering. If that is your calling, I encourage you — I challenge you — to heed it. We must always reach out to the poorest of the poor. You have to convert the world and you must do it by living a life of personal sanctity.
Of course, much of living lives of personal sanctity rests in our willingness to abandon ourselves to Divine Providence. The problems we confront in our daily lives are problems that often require our immediate and prayerful attention; but above all they demand that we understand them in their proper context.
We have to have complete confidence that God is in control and that whatever circumstances or problems that might confront us are ultimately ordered, by God, to the good of our own salvation and the salvation of others. It is important that we never become discouraged by the problems that confront us or circumstances that surround us. We must lives our lives as good citizens, full engaged in the world around us.
Finally, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith so eloquently stated [in a note] earlier this year: “by fulfilling their civic duties, guided by a Christian conscience, in conformity with its values, the lay faithful exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their particular competence and responsibility. … The lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in so many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.”
To be good citizens we must be good Catholics; and to be good Catholics we must be active citizens. God bless you all for the good work you have already done — and for the good work you are about to undertake.