A U.S. Congressman from Louisiana who is a former Jesuit seminarian said his background in Ignatian spirituality has helped him discern right decisions in his work. His attendance at Mass before a major vote on health care reform particularly affected him, he reported.
The Vietnamese-born Anh “Joseph” Cao told National Jesuit News that he uses Ignatian methods like the examination of conscience and the practices of the 30 day silent retreat.
“I do that very often. Using the whole process of discernment to see where the Spirit is moving me has been extremely important, especially in my recent decision to support the health care reform plan,” Rep. Cao said.
He explained that the Jesuit emphasis on social justice and advocacy for the poor, the widow, and those who cannot help themselves plays a significant part in his decisions, but ultimately he bases his choices on his conscience and how the Holy Spirit is moving him.
“The issues that we contend with in Congress affect every single person here in the United States, so I want to make sure that my decisions are based on good principles and good morals,” Rep. Cao said.
Cao, the only Republican Congressman to vote for the House’s proposed health care reform bill, told National Jesuit News that he went to Mass and prayed before the vote. The readings were from Isaiah and the priest gave a homily about not being afraid.
“I really felt a personal touch during this homily, that this homily was meant for me,” he reported.
Rep. Cao said he knew if he voted yes he would be “the most hated Republican in the country” but the Mass gave him the strength to support the bill.
The Congressman remarked that he sees everything in life as “a gift” and is “not too attached” to being a Congressman.
“I see myself as being there to serve God, to do what is God’s will in my life, and if things happen to change, the next year or two, then I’m pretty happy and pretty satisfied,” he explained.
Saying that health care reform is needed to help those “who cannot help themselves” he commented that it is also important to ensure that “core moral values” are not compromised.
He said he believed that supporting the bill would probably end his political career, but he made clear to the House leadership his non-negotiable opposition to federal funding of abortion.