|Mary Ann Glendon during her talk at the Regina Apostolorum.|
Rome, March 24, 2011. Fear of compromising on
values and principles should not deter anyone from pursuing a
possible vocation in public life, but it is important to
be grounded in practical wisdom and theory.
This was the view
of Mary Ann Glendon, a former US Ambassador to the
Holy See and a distinguished professor at Harvard Law School,
at a talk she gave last Thursday at the Regina
Apostolorum Athenaeum in Rome. The theme was politics as a
Drawing on the examples of the Roman philosopher Cicero
and the 18th century British politician, Edmund Burke, Professor Glendon
said that both men struggled between adhering to their principles
and ideals, and compromising on them.
But she said that
although criticized at the time, today they are universally admired,
not least because they remained philosophers as well as politicians.
Glendon argued that it is this practical wisdom combined with
secure moral principles that are needed in politics today.
Mary Ann Glendon: “What we have to hope for are
states-persons and other decision makers who have practical wisdom, but
also well grounded in theory, and then it doesn´t hurt
to get down on your benders and say a few
The Harvard Law Professor said many of her students,
when deciding on their future careers, ask her how they
can make a difference.
But she said that what Cicero and
Burke teach us is that that is probably wrong question.
Every one of us will make a difference and that´s
the scary question which we should ask with fear and
trembling. Either a person is building a situation of life
and love, Professor Glendon said, or they are shifting probabilities
in the other direction.
To help explain the meaning of vocation,
she then quoted a famous prayer of Cardinal John Henry
God knows me and calls me by my name.…
has created me to do Him some definite service;
has committed some work to me
which He has not
committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know
it in this life,
but I shall be told it
in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
have a part in this great work;
I am a
link in a chain, a bond of connection
He has not created me for naught. I shall do
I shall do His work;
I shall be an
angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own
place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep
and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be
If I am in sickness, my sickness may
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
necessary causes of
some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
He knows what He is about.
take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide the future from me—
still He knows what He
Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask
not to see—
I ask not to know—I ask simply
to be used.
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
from Meditations and
"Meditations on Christian Doctrine,"
"Hope in God—Creator", March 7,