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Dear friends,

            There was a day in the year I was born, 1941, that was declared by one of our great Presidents to be “a day that will live in infamy.” This past week, there was a day that will also live in infamy – not, however, because it was declared so by a president, but because, sadly, it was largely caused by a President.

            I say this, not to stir the political waters and make them muddier than they already are, but simply to call all of us to prayer for our nation at a very troubled time.

            And I realize that prayer might seem like the easy way out - a copout or a passive escape from the battle for the soul of our beloved nation. But I see it as the deepening of our commitment to the strength and well-being and, indeed, the survival of our democracy. And, to quote the poet, “more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

            But how should we be praying, and for whom should we be praying during these days of a nearly unprecedented assault on our democracy?

            In the first place, we should most assuredly be praying for our nation because our sacred democratic institutions are being tested in ways reminiscent of what happened at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. And our prayer should include all of our elected officials – that they will not allow their own ambitions, or narrow party interests, or ideologies to come before the Common Good.

            We should pray, too, for President Trump who, by his careless and unbridled rhetoric has – intentionally or not - fomented an outbreak of violence that has resulted not only in chaos but in death and destruction, and has imperiled the rule of law and the peaceful transferal of power in this country. He most assuredly needs our prayers.

            We should pray, too, for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris as they prepare to take over the reins of government at a time of deep and fractious divisions in our nation. They will need divine wisdom and guidance as they go about the challenging work of governing, while at the same time, healing wounds, awakening consciences, and promoting a culture of civil and respectful dialogue.

            And, my friends, we should pray for our world because what happens in the world’s oldest democracy – long regarded as being a beacon of light and a city on the hill – does not happen in isolation; it affects, for good or ill, the health and well-being of all the nations of the world.

            But prayer does not stand by itself, hiding safely behind church doors or removed from the messy world where concrete decisions are made and the work of democracy is done. On the contrary, prayer undergirds, informs, and elevates political action and decision-making.

            However, our prayer will be hollow if it is not accompanied by our own whole-hearted participation in the democratic process, and this includes making every effort to inform ourselves: to call out deliberate deceptions for what they are, separating fact from fiction, and refusing to buy into conspiracy theories, patent falsehoods and downright lies. It also includes our refusal to allow ourselves to become prisoners of any political ‘orthodoxy,’ whether of the left or the right. Instead, we must engage in careful, dispassionate study of the great issues facing our nation - always through the broad lens of the Church’s social teaching and never through the narrow lens of self-serving, destructive ideologies.

            My friends, we have just welcomed a New Year and have done so with the hope that the darkness of the year just passed might be lifted and hope might once again flourish. It is not too late for this to happen, but it will not happen unless each of us takes seriously our obligation to be good citizens and faithful, faith-filled believers.

            Let me conclude with words I’ve quoted before, but which have never seemed as apt or as prophetic as they do today: the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln spoken so long ago at his first inaugural.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory…will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched…by the better angels of our nature.

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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