Published May 30th, 2016 [Post has been abridged for readability—but not added to—since then]
Dear Brethren in Christ,
When I last wrote to you, it was precisely the half-way point of Lent. Today, we are exactly half way through the Holy Year of Mercy, which will end on this year’s Feast of Christ the King. As you no doubt have come to expect, I have some words of exhortation again, but this time of a slightly different nature.
In my last post I also alluded to the fact that I may then have well been on the cusp of one of the most exhausting, demanding, difficult endeavors of my life, if it were to turn out that God called me to it.
And indeed He did.
For much of the months of March and April I was relentlessly pounding the streets, going door-to-door, sometimes all day, in the poorest areas of my home city of Albany, NY (so as to ensure that each day I was engaging in a true Divine Will Missionary of Mercy walk by way of this endeavor — yes, I even wore a Divine Mercy pin), gathering signatures in an attempt to force a primary election against my U.S. Congressional District’s deeply entrenched, machine supported, pro-abortion, pro-gay “marriage” Representative (a career politician “Catholic,” no less). I dare say there is scarcely an inch of the poorest streets of this city — including each floor of all of the largest and most dissolute public housing project high rise apartments — that my own two feet did not tread in those weeks. In the course of this mission I knocked on thousands of doors.
Although it was quite successful (I got almost 700 signatures), I did fall short of the 1,250 needed in order to get on the ballot against my opponent. But I do not regret for a moment my attempt, and in what follows I will explain why.
Before I write any further, though, I know that the first question of many of those who read this site will be more fundamental: “Why? Why would someone like you — a devout Catholic, learned in private revelation and theology, who sees the Signs of the Times — put hopes in, and waste time in, politics?”
Bear with me while I give the long answer to that question. Since this answer is just about me, however, and I am nothing, I will enclose it in horizontal bars so you can skip it if you like and move on to the purpose of this post: the Lessons Learned from the run.
When, in 2013, my wife and I were building our lives together, we faced that choice that all young couples face: where to settle down and begin our family?
My human-will, that is, the self-will, had a very clear and immediate answer to that question: get away from the world as much as possible. You see, I do not think there is anyone who hates, to the extent that I do, the unholy music, impure images, ugliness, disorder, constant noise, sinful conversations, and the like, that inevitably inundate any densely-populated area these days. Humanly speaking, there is nothing I want more than to be completely removed from all of this garbage — and while there is nothing wrong with such a desire in and of itself (quite the contrary, it is an objectively good desire and I still look forward to the day when God calls me and my family into a more rural setting), even the holiest desires are worthless if they are not the Divine Will.
Now, by making it clear to me that the corporate engineering world (which I had briefly entered back into after marriage) was not my calling, God had already eliminated the “best of both worlds” option — a $400k house in a pristine, quiet, gated-community suburb close to a nice upscale parish — since that would cost far more than we could afford with my lowly salary as a (non-public school) teacher.
So instead of doing what I wanted to do: hop on to a real estate website and find some very quiet acreage in some beautiful, relatively remote rural spot — which would have inevitably deprived me of the ability to reasonably undertake my greatest joy: daily Mass, but which would have nevertheless indeed been an option since I was only then teaching online and therefore without geographic constraints — we did a Novena to St. Joseph asking him what house to buy. With great clarity, he sent us to the home we now own and are raising our children in.
This is a home that does not allow me to comfortably ignore the plight of the poor. We live less than stone’s throw from two half-way houses (one of which is basically across the street and commendably tries to help young mothers who are in need to stay with their children), and just over a stone’s throw from some particularly dilapidated city blocks in extreme poverty, in addition to a large industrial port which daily spews petroleum fumes — uninhibited by laws that should be in place protecting the nearby residents from them.
Don’t get me wrong, our particular block is actually fairly nice, but nevertheless it does not allow me to turn a blind eye to reality and pretend, like so many do (much to the chagrin of our Holy Father), that the poor and the environment need not be given much weight in the political concerns of a modern Catholic. It does not allow me sit on my quiet porch in a beautifully manicured suburb far from any landfill, city, or industrial establishment and say, “how dare Pope Francis write an encyclical addressing environmental degradation, poverty, and exploitation, when there are so many more pressing issues!”
(Lest my tone here wrongly indicates otherwise, please know that I have nothing against living in a pristine suburban or rural area — better and holier Catholics than myself do just that. I’m simply relaying what I’ve learned from that arrangement not being what God has called me to at the moment.)
Quite the contrary, this, combined with my daily Divine Will Missionary of Mercy walks through the poorest streets of this city, has taught me that the entire Social Magisterium is the answer. I do not mean the “social justice” pseudo-causes that are pushed in left-wing Catholic circles all over the country. I mean the actual Magisterial Documents: above all, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Caritas in Veritate, and Laudato Si.
The Devil is the ultimate defeatist, and he counts as his own countless souls on Earth who, whether they know it or not, serve as his instruments by doing everything they can to shoot down each and every bold endeavor for Christ that crosses their path.
I was told by so many people that it was impossible. That I couldn’t ever, as an un-endorsed newcomer, knock on doors and get anywhere near enough signatures to run for Congress. That I’d be so opposed that it would not even begin to work. That I had to do it the “right” way by first cozying up to the establishment, then running for school board, then city council, then county legislator, then state senate, then (and only then) Congress. Well, I got more signatures than they ever thought possible. I received more support than they ever thought I would. I stumbled upon people on the streets who decided in a mere few moments that they would be my allies. As I will discuss in a following paragraph, the opposition from the establishment was weak to nonexistent.
And next time, God willing, I’ll get the required amount (not on my own, mind you. Even this time around I had help; particularly from one very dedicated person who got over a hundred signatures for me).
But at the end of the day, who cares if you are successful by worldly standards? The best a defeatist can possibly do is argue that, looking at the evidence, it seems you won’t succeed. Again, even if he winds up being right, so what? Our Lord assures us that it is our faithfulness, and our willingness to suffer for His sake, that matters. It is that standard alone on which He rewards us — not for the success. And if we conduct ourselves in such a way that we are definitely building up treasures in Heaven — not merely by the hypothetical future achievement of our stated objective, but by what we are actually saying and doing each and every day — then we’ve already proven the defeatists wrong. In the paragraphs that follow you will see that God, through my efforts even on day one, achieved this.
Now besides the fact that defeatism should be condemned by its very nature, there is another truth concerning the political landscape itself that this defeatism is completely ignorant to: There is a sleeping giant waiting to be awakened; one which I experienced firsthand day after day on the streets. It is the political power of urban poor, often minority, registered Democrats who are pro-Faith, pro-Family, and pro-Life. I had so many wonderful conversations with, and received so much ardent support from, these people who were 100% behind my mission. Currently there is at least one politician who has realized this, and he is the single most pro-Life, pro-Faith, pro-Family politician in the entire country: The New York Democrat Ruben Diaz Sr (unfortunately his son, the politician Ruben Diaz Jr., is a typical Culture of Death Democrat, so be sure not to confuse the two). I challenge you to find one Republican politician in this country bold enough to actually boast of his campaigning against gay “marriage” with none other than the TFP (which is so traditional that most Catholics fear it), facetiously thank NARAL for pointing out how anti-abortion he is, and post a video of himself deriding liberal notions of separation of Church and State, and do all of this on his official political campaign site. It is high time we start taking this sleeping giant seriously instead of buying into the current Catholic defeatist narrative that insists there is only one way to possibly fight the culture of death in politics: grudgingly accept every lame, lukewarmly “pro life” Republican that the establishment presents and ignore every other tenet of Catholic Social Doctrine.
I live in Albany, NY –major political machine territory. In fact, my practical namesake was a machine boss of enormous proportions until just a few decades ago. Nothing is supposed to happen here without the go-ahead of the Democratic Party Establishment. My opponent, Paul Tonko, is about as entrenched, established, and endorsed by this machine as one can possibly get, as he has been a career politician for 40 years. I suppose the mere contemplation of this reality is supposed to make would-be new political challengers shake in their boots and run in the opposite direction with their tails between their legs.
You will understand, then, how amusing it was to me that, despite often spending entire days pounding the streets, knocking on door after door in “Tonko territory,” I barely came across anyone who actually admired and supported him and consequently refused to sign my petition (maybe one a day, on average, if even that). In fact, practically everybody I talked to who actually could give a valid signature – because errors on the voter list often made this not possible – did indeed sign my petition! And these were only registered Democrats in the City of Albany: people who were supposed to be strong Tonko supporters. What I came across far more often were people sick and tired of establishment politicians completely ignoring the actual concrete needs of the poor, for the sake of flashy photo ops that they go running for whenever a big local business makes a press release about an event.
Ha! The bark of the machine sure is louder than its bite. If only we stopped thinking the world was so powerful, we’d have conquered it by now for Christ. Catholics far too often, instead of boldly diving headfirst into the midst of the battle, choose rather to mire themselves in conspiracy theories that convince them that all effort is for naught, make their circles of influence more and more enclosed and guarded, limit their “input” on matters to pointless ranting and comfortable armchair criticism, and dedicate their time to reading and promulgating endless diagnoses of the modern world’s problems while ignoring their calling to actually do something concrete, difficult, and self-sacrificial to resolve them. This is an utter tragedy. If you think you may have fallen victim to it, even if to a small degree, I can only beg you to read Evangelii Gaudium and allow yourself to be formed by this particular Magisterial Document.
And the Devil is the exact same way. When it comes to serious, convicted, devout Catholics, he operates primarily through fear, discouragement, and anxiety: because he is actually the one utterly terrified of us. That’s right. He knows that God, through us, can utterly demolish his plans if we only discard our fear of him and go on the offensive against him. I was told I would be spiritually attacked if I engaged in this; and indeed I was. But I do not fear spiritual attacks; all they do is make me turn more to God — the One Who is the sole purpose of my life anyway. So what do I have to lose? The worst the devil could do is kill me, if God allowed it. And so what? “Life to me means Christ, and death is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) The devil is powerless over us. Do not fear him – this only gives him power that he does not naturally have. Instead, laugh at him, scoff at him, consider him to be the insect that he is, stay close to Mary, and proceed with courage in the Will of God no matter what tantrums this causes the devil to throw (in fact, rejoice when he throws tantrums, because this only evidences the powerful workings of grace).
Almost every day I went out, I wore a very clearly visible Divine Mercy pin (this one, to be precise). To almost every person I spoke, I ended our conversation with something to the effect of (in fact, usually verbatim:) “God bless you. Please pray for me. I will pray for you.”
“A daring and perhaps imprudent thing to mix with politics, Daniel!” you may be thinking. Well, guess how many people this was a problem for in my entire time of knocking on thousands of doors…..
Yes, a sum total of two people had a problem with my pin and my explicit Faith. And I was only seeking out registered Democrats in the least Bible-minded city in the entire country. It “should” have been practically all of them. And yet, almost without fail, the reaction was extremely positive. People were so thankful that I said “God bless you,” that I asked for their prayers, and that I assured them of mine. People loved the Divine Mercy pin — in fact, many said they were signing my petition because of that pin. There were people who saw my little brush up with their lives as signs from God. There were people who opened up to me about their problems, and by the end of me offering a mere few simple words of encouragement to trust in the Divine Mercy, were shedding tears of grace. There were people who were greatly encouraged and inspired to hope by someone actually trying to bring God into politics. I could go on for some time. So much for the lukewarm (and no doubt demonically inspired) notion that Faith should not be mixed with politics.
God’s grace is more powerful than anything. It’s more powerful than the devil. It’s more powerful than apathy. It’s more powerful than atheism. It’s more powerful than anti-Catholicism. The problem is not that God’s grace is lacking; rather, the problem is that there are so few really willing to try to put it to use to Conquer the World for Christ. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2) This is not to say that everyone will be open to God’s grace. Quite the contrary, many will reject it and persecute the messenger (no servant is greater than his master; they persecuted Christ and they will persecute us). But there will always be enough of those who don’t reject grace that bringing it to the masses is worth the effort a thousand times over.
Think about how much of a “risk” I am taking just by writing this post. Those who were alerted to my campaign are perhaps keeping an eye on what I write publicly. They may have even saved this post to their hard drives so they can bring it up and try to use it against me when I try running again (because I am not giving up). And guess what? I don’t care. I am not afraid of the whole world knowing that my motivation here with politics is to Conquer the World for Christ and proclaim the Divine Mercy. This motive arises simply out of love of God and love of Neighbor. I am not going to frantically cling to every little strategy I can think of in order to increase my statistical odds of election at the expense of the Eternal Mission. I am not going to continually kick the can down the road my whole life (which is always what the Devil tries to convince us to do) and say to myself “Well… I’ll use only worldly methods for now, and once I’m in office and have more influence, then I’ll really start doing what I can for the Sake of the Kingdom.” If that is the way you think now, then it is the way you will think all the way to the grave. I shudder to think of what incredible graces would have been lost if I had refused to proclaim the Divine Mercy in the midst of gathering signatures under the pretense of delaying doing so until I was in office and therefore more influential. So many souls were touched by God’s Grace simply because I insisted on maintaining each day pounding the streets as a DWMoM Walk. If I instead neglected that and did it the “ordinary, ‘right’ way,” then I’d still be where I am now (not on the ballot), but without having brought the Divine Mercy to hundreds if not thousands of souls over that short time.
As Pope Francis repeatedly insists, “time is greater than space.” (E.G. paragraph 222-225) Though at first this might seem vague, what he is trying to teach is very powerful: it is better to initiate a process – better to “go for the gold” even if it means someone else will reap the harvest down the line – than to merely limit ourselves to doing whatever is most likely to ensure that we ourselves will specifically benefit from our efforts, possess the power, and receive the thanks from them in the here and now.
I am definitely not encouraging proselytizing, being overbearing, or forcing yourself to say or do things that feel awkward for you. I am not saying that all of your endeavors should look like thinly-veiled sermons (on the contrary, we must do what we do because we believe in it, not because we simply want to sneak in some preaching). The best proclamation of the Divine Mercy — the best Evangelization — is always graceful, natural, and inviting (not imposing). A Divine Mercy pin is a great start; it allows people to ask you about it, if they so please. Responding to questions that others ask on their own initiative is among the best ways to Evangelize. Saying “God Bless you” and/or asking for someone’s prayers and assuring them of yours is always a great way to Evangelize. These small acts and others like them (I only present here a couple of my own ideas), done with love, can truly be the channels through which God works wonders in a person’s soul; especially if you do these things in the Divine Will.
The crisis of effeminacy in the Church is longstanding. And although limp wrists, lisps, and liturgical dancing are a part of it, they are nothing but a shadow of the real problem, which is a lack of willingness to undertake suffering, sacrifice, exertion, difficulty, and danger for the sake of the good.
Whenever someone reveals a desire to do something great for God — something that will inevitably require perseverance through great difficulty — a whole host of people tend to crop up insisting that there is a “better” way. This often kills supernatural vocations, but on a smaller scale, it also constantly kills individual missions to which God calls people.
Some of these promoters of easy advice do so innocently, and therefore bear no guilt, even though they still do great damage to God’s plan. They simply do not want to see people they love suffer unnecessarily and they have fallen into an over-inflated and disordered sense of prudence at the expense of other virtues. Some of them even do so by pointing to St. Therese of Lisieux, as if her beautiful “little way” somehow negates and renders sinful that great virtue of magnanimity. But the little way of the Little Flower has nothing to do with shunning great endeavors categorically! It merely has to do with the recognition that externally great things are not necessary in order to be a great saint, but rather, little things done with great love are necessary for this end. The little way cannot tell us whether great endeavors that we find on our hearts should be followed through with! How sad a world we would live in today if all of the great endeavors of the great saints were passed up simply because they were great!
If you think you are called to do something great for Christ, you may well be. Dare not write off this inspiration on your heart because you are unworthy, or because people will laugh, or because “that’s not the way it’s usually done.” History would be a very boring thing if God’s Will was merely that everything always be done the same way. Life is very short. And it’s the only chance we get to earn merit for Heaven. Imprudent action for God is a real possibility; paralysis from fear is a far more common one.
Regarding my situation: I prayed much for God’s guidance (even asking St. Therese for a sign through a novena with my wife, and she gave me one) and felt that He was calling me to it. I discussed it with my wife and had her encouragement. I discussed it with my Spiritual Director and had his encouragement as well. Although an extraordinary mission, it was not entirely unreasonable either. I had a Providentially-placed long break from work right when I’d have to be pounding the streets. What further steps would have been needed before proceeding? None.
If I had refused to follow through with it because the political “experts” insisted I do it in another way (and indeed they did – without an ounce of meekness), or because I feared the judgment and criticism of those who cannot stand those close to them “rocking the boat,” or because I dreaded the sacrifice entailed, then all I would be left with now is the pangs of remorse.
I would have been spared much suffering, indeed. For “easy” is one thing this mission was not. Spending all day outside in New York in March and April means you will be exposed to great heat, great cold, rain, snow, wind, and the like, all in the span of a week. Going through all of the poorest streets of a city is not exactly the safest thing you can do, either. You will pass by all manner of dissolution and decay, and will have to interact with these situations to varying degrees — all without any hesitation or revulsion. Walking each floor of the project high rises means being exposed to a plethora of sights, sounds, and smells that you’d rather not know existed. Knocking on someone’s door to ask for a signature because you’re running for office is especially taxing, as you are putting yourself at the mercy of people you have never met and know nothing about, door after door, all day long, day after day. It is physically and spiritually exhausting and demanding. And this is all not to mention that, once you actually get the requisite number of signatures, you are then attacked viciously by those whose established realms of power, through which they exercise the dominion of the Culture of Death, you dare to challenge.
So, yes, the sacrifice is real, and it is significant. Those who are always there to give the “easy advice” themselves have a very straightforward job when it comes to finding reasons to discourage the great missions that God calls souls to; in this case, politics. But they miss the point entirely. The degree of suffering involved in a task says nothing about whether it is God’s will for us. That is determined by the call He has placed on the hearts of those who receive them. You and God alone know this, and no one else can tell you what it is.
But now, instead of pangs of remorse, I have the joy and peace of knowing I tried my best, and built up many treasures in Heaven in the midst of it.
Easy advice feels great to get; it’s almost like a lullaby. But you can detect its presence by the fact that, instead of your heart filling with charity, joy, and peace when you receive it, it is instead filled with love of pleasure, fear of suffering, and a subtle melancholy. And remember well that it is not how we feel before an endeavor, or even in the midst of it, that judges its character and its accordance with the Will of God: rather, it is how we feel after it. “Virtue is the roughest way, but proves at night a bed of down.” So I will leave you with a couple quotes. One from a president whose example I would not overall recommend imitating, but who nevertheless gave this solid advice that should resound in the hearts of all.
“It is not for the success of a work, but for the suffering that I give reward.” – Jesus to St. Faustina
“You were born to be a leader! There is no room among us for the lukewarm. Humble yourself and Christ will set you aflame again with the fire of Love…. Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart….Esto vir!–Be a man!” St. Josemaria Escriva
“Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.” – Pope Benedict XVI
“Strength and daring. The socio-cultural context in which you live is at times weighed down by mediocrity and boredom. We must not resign ourselves to the monotony of daily life; rather we must cultivate projects of a wider breadth and go beyond the ordinary…” – Pope Francis
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Teddy Roosevelt.
Now, dear friends, I do not mean to overly insist upon politics. I am certainly not pretending that our own political effort is somehow going to usher in, on its own, the Era of Peace. Far from it! Politics is just one method (albeit, a particularly powerful and noble one) to do our small part in Conquering the World for Christ. I have shared this rather long post with you simply because it is one method that God has recently called me to use. I have not suddenly completely changed my focus; don’t worry, the same things I have been promoting for my seven years writing this blog still remain my primary areas of concern – above all the Divine Mercy and the Divine Will.
My point is simply that we all must do everything we can. We must not be lazy. The times are too urgent. What will be lost if we neglect our duty is too horrible to imagine, and what will be gained if we are faithful is too glorious to comprehend.
So let us return to where we started: half of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is now gone. We’ll never get it back. Will the end of this Year of Mercy usher in the actual end of the Time of Mercy? As I have stated repeatedly, I do not know. But let us determine the degree of our zeal for Proclaiming the Divine Mercy as if it just might. For although I do not know if the Time of Mercy will end (or begin to end) 174 days from now, I do know that a Holy Year the likes of which the world has never seen will end on that day. I do know that the Doors of Mercy throughout all the nations will close on that day, the Feast of Christ the King of 2016. And I know that I do not want to spend eternity wondering what would have happened if I had used the time before that day in a better way.
Now even after saying all of this, many will choose to remain convinced that I am crazy; that I am a delusional Don Quixote who is in reality just another imprudent loose cannon who will be laughed at, fail, and then be forgotten.
So be it. I am willing to be thought of as insane, and I haven’t the slightest desire for worldly recognition, worldly success, or anything of the sort.
But I am not willing, come the Great Judgment of the Last Day, to be found to have been lukewarm. And above all, oh Prince of this World, know this: “there is nothing so fearsome as an enemy who, though beaten, bruised, and bloodied, will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up.” So this I solemnly vow: to never give up until the Kingdom of God has come fully upon Earth, and to exhaust every weapon I can get my hands on — private revelation, theology, politics, fighting abortion, culture, media, holy images, apologetics, academics, witness, admonishment, inspiration, technology… everything (all with the primary themes of proclaiming the Divine Mercy and Living in the Divine Will) — to Conquer the World for Christ and do my small part in laying the foundations for and calling down the Reign of the Divine Will; counting my own life as nothing in this pursuit.
Not all are called to politics. Yet all the baptized are indeed called to do all that they can to contribute to this Divine Conquest.
Therefore, join me, brethren in Christ, in this vow.
For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still, Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torchIsaiah 62:1I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, Till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.Psalm 132:5