On Tuesday, over a thousand Catholics from across the state traveled to Albany for the annual Catholic Conference Public Policy Forum Day. The goal of the day is to give witness to our faith in the public square, and to advocate for some important issues of concern to the Church and to individual Catholics.
It’s a long and frustrating day, and it would be easy to get cynical and give up on our State government. But for me, there were two highlights of the day that are worth reflecting on, that keep me hopeful and optimistic.
In the morning, Archbishop Dolan led a workshop on Catholic Social Teaching. There have been many outlines of the social teachings of the Church, in an attempt to make them more accessible to people. (Full disclosure: I even wrote a small book about this subject) And the Archbishop did an excellent job, in just a few minutes, to lay out the basic principles: the innate dignity of every individual human person, made in the image and likeness of God; the common good; solidarity; subsidiarity; and the duty to bring God’s truth into the public square.
But what was striking was how he started the discussion. He said that “the first principle is God”, and that we must always remember that God’s way, and His law, must have dominion over our lives and our world.
That is a truly radical proposition, and it’s the heart of what we as Catholics must do when we stride into the public square. We are never there to advance a purely partisan agenda, or to act on a theory of economics or social organization. We’re there to convince the world of the dominion of God, that He must always be our guiding star, and that we are His servants. It was the perfect way to kick off a day in which we would be going to the Capital Building to talk to our representatives about legislation.
The other highlight, for me, was the privilege of walking the halls of the Legislature with the Sisters of Life. We went on a tour of the Capital Building, which is a whitewashed tomb, outwardly beautiful but filled with corruption within. But we were there not just to see the sights, but so that the Sisters could be seen. They don’t have to say a word to a legislator or to an aide, give a quote to a reporter, or have their picture taken. Their presence alone is a witness to the King of Kings. Merely walking through the hallways was an evangelizing moment.
And everyone there recognized it. One thing about walking anywhere with the Sisters — you have to be patient, because they’re stopped every ten feet by people who want to talk to them and they stop to give Miraculous Medals to everyone they see. What they saw, of course, was not just a small group of women in habits. They saw a visible sign that people should commit themselves to God, and serve him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strengths.
The first principle is always God. That was why over a thousand Catholics went to Albany. That’s the source of our hope.