HomedotMagisDiscernmentCongressman Cao's Discernment

Congressman Cao's Discernment

Anh “Joseph” Cao got a lot of attention last December when he became the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to Congress. He was in the news again recently when he became the only Republican to vote in favor of the health reform bill that passed the House of Representatives. Cao is a former Jesuit seminarian. In a recent interview, he talked about the importance of Ignatian discernment in his work:

I still use the Ignatian methods almost every day, from examination of conscience back to the methods of the 30 day retreat. I do that very often. Using the whole process of discernment to see where the Sprit is moving me has been extremely important, especially in my recent decision to support the health care reform plan. The Jesuit emphasis on social justice, the fact that we have to advocate for the poor, for the widow, for those who cannot help themselves, plays a very significant part. . . . For example, right before the [health care] vote, I actually went to Mass and I prayed. And the theme of the day was one of the readings from Isaiah. The priest gave the homily about be not afraid, so I really felt a personal touch during this homily, that this homily was meant for me.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manneyhttps://www.jimmanneybooks.com/
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Like Vinita, I’m encouraged to see an example of Ignatian Spirituality at work, and I hope that Congressman Cao’s example will be noticed by other public servants.
    Unlike Jim Infantine, I believe that Congressman Cao discerned himself into light, not darkness, by being able to see the need for this country to do something about the poor. If I am up to date on the version of this bill that Cao voted for, federal funds will in no way whatsoever be used for abortions. That aside, the Christian notion of helping the poor is hardly a sentimental one – it is fundamental. When did Christians forget that?

  2. Sadly, this seems an example of how one can “discern” oneself into a very dark place. On pro-life grounds alone, it is, at the very least, a horrible prudential judgment to think that voting for this health care plan will not give more momentum to the pro-abortion forces.
    Additionally, sentimental notions about helping the poor are not enough. Idealistic imaginings about what government-run healthcare will provide are very likely to collide with the reality of denials of care for persons deemed to be in need of care that is “too expensive”, etc. I would have hoped Congressman Cao might have discerned a need for more skepticism when considering putting healthcare in the hands of an administration that has shown little respect for the vulnerable at the beginning and end of life.

  3. Wow–thanks for posting this. Very encouraging to see Ignatian spirituality at work in an arena that often seems void of much positive spirituality.


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