Humility and love are indispensable traits of those who govern, while citizens, especially if they are Catholic, cannot be indifferent to politics. That was Pope Francis’ message this morning during his daily Mass at Santa Marta, as he called for prayers for those in authority.
The Gospel of the centurion who, with humility and confidence, asks for the healing of his servant; and the letter of Saint Paul to Timothy with the invitation to pray for those who govern, inspired the Pope to “reflect on the service of authority.” Those who govern, Pope Francis said, “have to love their people,” because “a leader who doesn’t love, cannot govern – at best they can discipline, they can give a little bit of order, but they can’t govern.” The Pope considered David, “how he loved his people,” so much that after the sin of the census he asked the Lord not to punish the people, but [to punish] him. These, then, are “the two virtues of a leader”: love for the people and humility.
“You can’t govern without loving the people and without humility! And every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path.’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good. The man or woman who governs – who loves his people is a humble man or woman.”
From another point of view, Saint Paul exhorts those who are governed to lift up prayers for those who have authority, so that they might be able to lead a calm and peaceful life. Citizens cannot be indifferent to politics:
“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern. . . .’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”
There is a tendency, the Pope observed, to only speak ill of leaders, and to mutter about “things that don’t go well.” “You listen to the television and they’re beating [them] up, beating [them] up; you read the papers and their beating [them] up. . . .” He continued, “Yes, maybe the leader is a sinner, as David was, but I have to work with my opinions, with my words, even with my corrections” because we all have to participate for the common good. It is not true that Catholics should not meddle in politics:
“‘A good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.’ That’s not true. That is not a good path. A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer! That’s what Paul says: “Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.” “But Father, that person is wicked, he should go to hell. . . .” Pray for him, pray for her, that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble.” A Christian who does not pray for those who govern is not a good Christian! “But Father, how will I pray for that person, a person who has problems. . . .” “Pray that that person might convert!”
So, the Pope concluded, we give the best of ourselves, our ideas, suggestions, the best, but above all the best is prayer. Let us pray for our leaders, that they might govern well, that they might advance our homeland, might lead our nation and even our world forward, for the sake of peace and of the common good.
Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy.