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September 16, 2013

Capable Catholics should not be reticent about becoming candidates in the civic elections held across Alberta Oct. 21. Serving in public office is one way lay Catholics can help to renew the "temporal order," the life and breath of society.

Indeed, the Second Vatican Council encouraged those with appropriate gifts to take part in "the difficult but noble art of politics" (The Church in the Modern World, 75).

Three words are worthy of note in that description of politics. Politics is "difficult" because so many decisions are prudential ones, ones which rely on right judgment and for which no answers will be found in any manual. Politicians should not be beholden to special interests, especially those with power and money, but must find the path to morally upright decisions.

Politics is also noble. Today, that is rarely noted and too often attention is diverted to politicians who abuse their role for their own benefit more than to those who take the long view, building a better city, province and country for their children and grandchildren.

Yet, noble politicians do abound, elected officials who differ on specifics, but whose main concern is for the long-term common good.

Third, politics is an art. It means putting one's ego aside and consulting with others to build consensus. Disagreements may be strong, but anger should be controlled so that no wedge is ever driven between oneself and one's colleagues.

Catholic elected officials should have a special concern for the poor and the marginalized. They should also have a strong concern for the future - for the natural environment, for supporting families and for strengthening the moral fabric of society.

The day for filing nominations is Sept. 23. For council positions in larger cities, it is now likely too late to launch a serious campaign. However, in smaller centres and for Catholic school board positions, where the level of organization and financial commitment is not as great, candidates can still come forward.

The only sin is to refuse to offer one's talents out of false humility.

A word should be said about the need for capable Catholic school trustees. Catholic schools have a special place in the Church - they are a key place through which the faith is passed on to the next generation. That task is becoming increasingly difficult.

The difficulty should not drive away good candidates. It is in times of challenge that visionary leaders who can inspire others to deepen their commitment are most needed. Those who have the ability, not only to talk about the need for Catholic schools to be countercultural, but to spark practical means to that end should come forth. This is a rare form of discipleship, and it is disciples who are needed in public office.