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Politics as a Vocation
ITALY | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Mary Ann Glendon addresses students at the Regina Apostolorum on the kind of politicians needed today.

Mary Ann Glendon at RA
Mary Ann Glendon during her talk at the Regina Apostolorum.

By H2O-News

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 vocation.

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.

Professor 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 prayers.”

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 Newman:

God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He 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…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
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 His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may 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 is about.…
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 Devotions,
"Meditations on Christian Doctrine,"
"Hope in God—Creator", March 7, 1848


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-03-23


 
 

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