True Greatness: How?

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The following first appeared in the Fall issue of Marian Helper magazine. Receive a free copy or read it online.

By Chris Sparks
What makes someone truly great? Many people are asking and answering that question one way or another in a presidential election year in the United States. We all get to cast our votes to decide who should fill one of the most important job openings in the world.

To whom will we entrust our nuclear weapons? To whom should we entrust the leadership of the most powerful nation on earth? Who do we want wielding the sort of power that would have been utterly unimaginable to our ancestors, save in myths and legends about the gods?

Yes, a lot of time and attention is going into this presidential campaign, as into every presidential campaign, and it certainly deserves it. In the immortal words of Spiderman's Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility." We, the electorate who get to bestow such great power, have a great responsibility to vote wisely and well, informing our consciences and our minds so that we may make a prudent decision at the ballot box. We should find good introductions to Catholic social teaching and allow the truths of the Gospel to guide us as we vote and talk to our friends and family about the election, especially those with whom we disagree. An election is for a year, and a presidential term is for four years, but the impact you make on your own soul and the souls of those around you will have eternal consequences.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote in The Weight of Glory: "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

Our actions help people to Heaven or grease the already slippery slope to hell. Our words, our charity or our contempt, our witness to the hard truths in self-sacrificing love or our witness to a naked will to power, a will to impose our desires and interests on our neighbors — these will have consequences for all of eternity.

Saint Faustina had a very clear vision of those consequences when Marshall Joseph Pilsudski, the famed Polish military leader and ruler of the nation, was dying. Her confessor and spiritual director, Blessed Michael Sopocko, would later reveal that it was Pilsudski's soul that Faustina wrote about in a long passage in her Diary. It's an important excerpt for us to consider during this election year. It reads:

A little child came and woke me up. ... The child was beautiful beyond words and resembled the Child Jesus, and he said to me ... "True greatness is in loving God and in humility."

Then I saw a soul which was being separated from its body amid great torment. O Jesus, as I am about to write this, I tremble at the sight of the horrible things that bear witness against him. ... I saw the souls of little children and those of older ones, about nine years of age, emerging from some kind of a muddy abyss. The souls were foul and disgusting, resembling the most terrible monsters and decaying corpses. But the corpses were living and gave loud testimony against the dying soul. And the soul I saw dying was a soul full of the world's applause and honors, the end of which are emptiness and sin. Finally a woman came out who was holding something like tears in her apron, and she witnessed very strongly against him.

O terrible hour, at which one is obliged to see all one's deeds in their nakedness and misery; not one of them is lost, they will all accompany us to God's judgment. I can find no words or comparisons to express such terrible things. And although it seems to me that this soul is not damned, nevertheless its torments are in no way different from the torments of hell; there is only this difference: that they will someday come to an end (Diary, 424-428).

"True greatness of the soul is in loving God and in humility." Remember that as you watch the campaign unfold in the coming months. We are choosing an earthly leader, a fallen human being, to take on the office of president of the United States. That office is both one of the greatest occasions for sin on the planet and one of the greatest opportunities to do good. We will elect someone who will need to rule wisely according to the truth in love and virtue to properly confront the challenges of our time — and that is only possible by the grace and mercy of God.

So let us pray through the intercession of St. Faustina for all running for federal, state, and local offices. Let us ask Jesus, the Divine Mercy, to cleanse them of their sins, renew their lives, and help them to accept and live the mercy of the Lord. Let us pray for all of us who will vote and all those who will be affected by our choices, that we may remember that loving our neighbor is far more important than defeating our enemies, and that our enemies and our neighbors may often be the same.

Visit DivineMercyForAmerica.com to learn more about imploring Divine Mercy for our nation and all nations around the world.

What should we look for in a politician's platform? The U.S. bishops offer us important guidance in their list of seven themes of Catholic social teaching. Visit usccb.org and search "Seven Themes Of Catholic Social Teaching."

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