Discerning the Good in Congress Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 19:22
This interview with Anh "Joseph" Cao is really remarkable (courtesy of National Jesuit News).

Not because he was born in Vietnam. Not because he was a Jesuit scholastic before he discerned that his call was to the secular apostolate and politics. And certainly not because he was the only Republican to vote for the health care reform package. (Catholics are free to honestly disagree about the practical application of the Church's teaching in a given situation.)

What I find so remarkable is how Cao describes the prayer and discernment that went into his decision:

"Cao: I still use the Ignatian methods almost every day, from examination of conscience back to the methods of the 30 day retreat. I do that very often. Using the whole process of discernment to see where the Sprit is moving me has been extremely important, especially in my recent decision to support the health care reform plan. The Jesuit emphasis on social justice, the fact that we have to advocate for the poor, for the widow, for those who cannot help themselves, plays a very significant part. But at the end of the day, I believe that it’s up to, at least from my perspective, understanding what does my conscience say, how is the Spirit moving me. I use that almost every day in my decision making process. The issues that we contend with in Congress affect every single person here in the United States, so I want to make sure that my decisions are based on good principals and good morals.

For example, right before the [health care] vote, I actually went to Mass and I prayed. And the theme of the day was one of the readings from Isaiah. The priest gave the homily about be not afraid, so I really felt a personal touch during this homily, that this homily was meant for me. I was going through a lot of turmoil, debating on what was the right decision, knowing the fact that if I were to vote ‘yes’, I would be the most hated Republican in the country. [laughs]. So, it was a tough discernment process but I felt during the Mass that it was speaking directly to me. It gave me the strength to say ‘yes, you have to make the right decision’ and ‘be not afraid’ to do it because ‘I will go before you’ so that is why I supported the bill knowing the fact that I would be the only one."


(Ca made it clear months before the vote that "I would not support a bill that would support federal funding of abortion.")

I'm just struck by his prayerfulness, his sense of the presence of God, and constant desire to seek to will of God as a politician. This is a true Catholic seeking to live his office for God and the common good. And his detachment:

Cao: "The question, ultimately, is ‘what is God’s will for me in my life?’ I see everything in life as a gift. I’m not too attached to my position. I’m not too attached to being a U.S. congressman. I see myself as being there to serve God, to do what is God’s will in my life, and if things happen to change, the next year or two, then I’m pretty happy and pretty satisfied. That’s how I approach my life, one day at a time and make sure that each and every day, what I do is according to how God’s will is for me on that day."

Wow. A man whose spiritual courage, intention, and integrity you can count on and respect even if you disagree with his conclusions. A politician disciple-discerner.

Marvelous and inspiring. What a model for lay apostles in the public square. May his tribe ever increase!

P.S. Let's keep our comments to the topic at hand which is Representative Cao's spiritual and discernment practices in the midst of his high visibility, high pressure, political life. This is of universal importance to all lay apostles seeking to do God's will in whatever position God has called us to.

What spiritual practices and disciplines have you found enable you to stay centered in God and discern the good in the midst of your work?