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Kathryn Jean Lopez / May 5, 2017

The Shining Example of the Little Sisters

There’s something about politics, and maybe the Trump administration in particular, that makes me think of original sin.

There’s something about politics, and maybe the Trump administration in particular, that makes me think of original sin. Sometimes, even when there’s something good happening, it’s not entirely right. I thought of that not for the first time as I watched the president invite the Little Sisters of the Poor up to his Rose Garden podium on the annual National Day of Prayer to be applauded. It was a perplexing and frustrating day, as are most days when one pays attention to politics.

But I’ll give President Trump credit for this: Unlike others, he did not pretend that the Little Sisters’ religious-liberty “ordeal” unnecessarily prompted by the Obama administration was yet over with the stroke of his pen. He indicated that it may soon be. In truth, his executive order didn’t change anything for them, though it and his words at the White House on religious liberty were a change of tone for the executive office; in the previous administration, the president and his Cabinet saw religious freedom as a restrictive thing, something to be curtailed if the believers were deemed archaic or worse in some of their matters of faith and tradition.

The previous administration’s attitude went almost entirely unnoticed by the media for years. The bewildering sight of an administration telling the Little Sisters — who have dedicated their lives to God and to serving the elderly poor — to provide insurance coverage that covers contraception and abortion-drugs to their staff went unnoticed by many Americans.

The sisters are women who know the power of sacrifice and the importance of making sure that every person knows he or she is loved. Many people feel cut off from love, even unworthy of it, and that void is inhumane, leading to so much hate and conflict. Individuals and communities who insist on changing this make all the difference.

On his recent visit to Egypt, Pope Francis said: “The greatness of any nation is revealed in its effective care of society’s most vulnerable members — women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and minorities — lest any person or social group be excluded or marginalized.” And he made clear that religion is never about hatred and violence — that is a perversion and blasphemy.

Pope Francis also said in the same address to government officials and diplomats in Cairo: “History … honors men and women of peace, who courageously and non-violently strive to build a better world: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’”

The Little Sisters are the peacemakers, and by celebrating them, we celebrate the kind of love we want for ourselves and the people dear to us. Can we desire that for our enemies, too? For those we never give thought to? That’s how we can begin to revolutionize the world. The Little Sisters don’t ask you to do what they do or believe what they believe, but when you see the brilliant light radiating from their hearts and deeds, you will want what they have. It’s something greater than the anger and turmoil that currently suffuses our society. So, I’m grateful the president called the sisters up to the podium in the Rose Garden. Now, I pray that his administration will actually restore freedom from the unnecessary regulations that hamper their good works and the efforts of similar religious organizations. And I pray that we begin to celebrate and practice the kind of love that restores not only human hearts and souls, but the health of a people.

It is said that God works with all things — even with bewilderingly unnecessary legal fights. So, thank you, Barack Obama. And thank you, Donald Trump. You both wound up getting us thinking about the Little Sisters. And that makes us better, especially as things aren’t quite right.

COPYRIGHT 2017 United Feature Syndicate

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