I am often invited to speak to various religious groups and organizations throughout the United States and beyond. Sometimes it's to a large organization and other times it's to a small church group, in a temple or even at a youth parish sports dinner. It's fun meeting so many new people and I learn a lot from listening to different points of view from young and old. While many in the audience are Catholic, I also meet a fair amount of non-Catholics. My recent appearances included a lavish Gala at the Italian Embassy in Washington and the other in the City of Newton, with the combined group of Knights of Columbus, local parishes, Our Lady's and Sacred Heart and Jewish worshipers. One group was with high Vatican officials, clergy, members of Congress, corporate leaders, artists and Catholic Museum officials. The other was a great crowd of concerned and informed loyal lay Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
Even though my field of expertise is American and world politics, I am often invited to talk about a topic I have become quite knowledgeable about, "Science and Faith." My national advocacy for children with special needs, like my 8 year old grandson Braeden, has inspired me and many families to get involved and speak out on behalf of their children and for more medical research. This cause has given me the opportunity to attend World Conferences on Adult Stem Cells at the Vatican and talk to the Pope, to meet at the National Institute of Health in Maryland and visit leading hospitals in the world to talk about the lack of support by our government in medical research. I also try to empower people with the understanding that while stem cell medicine is a future hope and promise, stem cell nutrition is here today and available to help everyone maintain better health.
But because of my experience in the media and in local and international government, many in the audience ask me about politics. But I also try to talk about another topic of great interest to me, sports and its influence in society today, good and bad.
However, a recent visit to the City of Newton and the large audience participation, was lively and informative. The audience combined Catholic parishes, the Knights of Columbus and community people. If this community open forum had been broadcast on national television, it would have provided millions of viewers and the media a great opportunity "to hear the voices of the real people of America." Not just media savvy single interest groups promoting their own political and social agenda. As I said to the group, "you people are committed, but you must also be informed on a wide range of issues, so you can be effective when you are talking to your elected officials and people in the media."
I tried to encourage them to do what I heard Pope John Paul II say so often, get involved in the civic and political life of your community. Be a candidate for national delegate who elects our next president. Find out how to go about it. Call a talk show, write letters and send a blog to the media and to your elected officials. Ask your family and friends to become politically active.
Lastly, Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Timothy Reagan of the Newton Council, introduced me to the audience last week at Our Lady's Church. What he said was remarkable. I wish every clergy member would also remind The faithful about the important role that Churches once played in America. Recalling the great achievements, accomplishments and sacrifices that Catholic political leaders made over the past 100 years was inspiring. He talked about the "dark days" in Boston and America and how it was Catholic leaders who courageously led us to greatness. Yes, GK Reagan may have been introducing me, but he was also talking about our parents and grandparents who came to this country and made it what it became. Stood up to injustice, served our country, educated our children, and worked hard for American families. They did all this while building, supporting and promoting traditional American values.
Catholics once had to fight a bigoted "Know Nothing" anti - Catholic movement, today it's a different challenge for Catholics. It's about us. A "Do Nothing" attitude among Catholics. From the genocide of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa to intolerance of Christians right here in America. Yes, our faith calls us to political action once again. And remember, "People of faith must be informed and involved citizens."
Ray Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mayor of Boston, best-selling author, political commentator and National Advisor to Stemtech International.