The disconnect between faith and life is the central problem of our day.

And it’s a problem that’s even clearer at election time.

We at the Register are always at a disadvantage on election week — we send an issue to the printer the day before Election Day, and readers start receiving it the day after. That means you know how the election turned out, and we don’t.

This gives us an opportunity to take a step back, however, and look at our nation’s life from a perspective that isn’t dominated by politics.

And here we see a problem that is much more deeply rooted than any issue on the ballot. It’s a problem that afflicts both parties. It turns up in religious people and non-religious people alike. It’s the tendency we have to separate not just Church and state on an institutional level, but to separate our faith from our daily living and choices.

You see it in the major issues of our day.

In embryonic stem-cell research, scientists hope to make progress in therapies for diseases — and don’t want to have to worry about killing new human lives to do it. In homosexual marriage, activists want to redefine marriage — and want to keep God and the natural law out of it. This disconnect even showed up in the question of the war in Iraq. The Pope and nearly every bishop in the world cautioned against the war in light of God’s law. Now, even prominent supporters of the war like Jonah Goldberg are calling it a “well-intentioned mistake” that has seriously weakened the president’s effectiveness.

But the same disconnect shows up in Catholics’ daily lives.

Many Catholics seem able to support one set of values at Church on Sunday morning and an entirely different set when they stop at the video store on the way home. Catholic marriages are breaking down at an alarming rate, and the scandal that history will most remember about our time is the huge number of Catholic laypeople aborting their babies.

When we drive a wedge between what we believe and how we live, it doesn’t take long for our lives to become the opposite of what we profess.The Church is so concerned with this problem that it convened a council in Rome to deal with it.

The Second Vatican Council’s reforms sought, above all, to bridge the gap between the profession of faith and the daily lives of Catholics.

Again and again, the Council tried to correct a misunderstanding. If Catholics believed that priests and nuns were the ones who spent their time worrying about “God’s things,” while lay people were supposed to worry about “mankind’s things,” the Council reminded us that God’s and mankind’s concerns were the same.

If Catholics tended to rely on the externals of religion, as if God were alien to human experience and could only be reached through certain formulas and expressions, the Council reminded us he is always accessible.

Ever since the Council closed 40 years ago, the popes have tried to drive home the universal call to holiness that was at its core.

When Benedict XVI was inaugurated, he quoted John Paul II’s inaugural homily: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!”

“The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free,” Pope Benedict said. “Yes, he would certainly have taken something away from them: The dominion and corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But he would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society.”

He added: “The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? … If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. “

Ultimately, fear is what keeps the truths of the faith separate from the choices in the lives of Catholics — in exactly the way the Holy Father describes.

Pope Benedict’s prescription against fear is friendship with Jesus. It’s a recurring theme of his pontificate, one he expressed most recently to university students a week before Election Day. “Whoever wants to be a friend of Jesus and become his authentic disciple,” he told them, “must cultivate an intimate friendship with him in meditation and prayer.”

We aren’t meant to slavishly fear what God might think as we go about our day, or darkly worry about what we might be missing out on by doing God’s will.

We’re meant to have a natural, affectionate relationship with Christ. A real friendship with a real person.

Only this will bridge the gap between faith and daily living. And only in this way will we make the best argument possible for the truths of the Catholic faith — living proof.