The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Act of Suffrage

Suffrage is not a word that comes up in regular every day speak. It seems to surface every four years in line with the election. Before the U.S. Treasury minted an annoying little dollar coin with her image, Susan B. Anthony was once better known as a pioneer for the suffrage for women in the 19th Century. Today, it seems more comfortable to say one has a right to vote than to say one has suffrage which if one did not know better might be confused with some kind of disease.

In some parts of the world, voting is not an option, it's compulsory. For example if one lives in Singapore, then it is the responsibility as a citizen to vote in any presidential or parliamentary election. To fail to do so removes one's name from the list of certified voters and bans one from holding public office. And while one can reapply to be eligible to vote again, one had better have a pretty good excuse for not previously voting such as being out the country or in the midst of delivering a baby in order get any kind of consideration to participate in the country's democratic process.

The Catholic Church has its own use of this word, suffrage. From the Latin suffragium, a suffrage is a series of short intercessory prayers. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Reformation the word evolved and got redefined to mean asking for assistance then later to assistance via voting for a higher purpose. The word was smartly hijacked in a sense by the right-to-vote-women of the 19th Century because the word naturally evokes the totally unrelated word suffer, which many women at that time felt they were forced to do by not having the right to fully participate in the electoral process.

How fitting that The Church celebrates All Saints Day and All Souls Day a few days before the election when the original meaning of this word suffrage gets more properly exercised. For it is on these holy days that the faithful especially ask their triumphant brothers and sisters in Christ, the ones whom are known to share in the beatific vision of Our Lord, for their assistance on this trek to Heaven.

Catholics believe in the eternal nature of the being. One gets created by God at conception, and from that second on one begins the eternal journey. And the Catholic does not go it alone. From her earliest days, the Church has taught that the mystical body of Christ included those who have gone before. The teaching was affirmed in 1964 when Pope Paul VI promulgated the dogmatic constitution on the Chruch:

Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead, and "because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins", also offers suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ's martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels. The Church has piously implored the aid of their intercession. To these were soon added also those who had more closely imitated Christ's virginity and poverty, and finally others whom the outstanding practice of the Christian virtues and the divine charisms recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful.
- Lumen Gentium

As America prepares to hopefully, peaceably elect a new President, perhaps more important than one's vote on November 4th is the daily suffrage to the saints to implore them to ask Christ for His Divine Mercy on America. The votive candle shown here that bears Barack Obama's image as a Catholic Saint, while incredibly offensive to the believer, does demonstrate how desperate this nation thirsts for salvation, and how easily led astry its citizens have become.

Vote on November 4th, but pray unceasingly for the conversion of hearts away from those who promulgate the culture of death under the guise of a savior.


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