Something Greater than Ourselves

February 6th, 2017

Genesis

The readings for daily Mass this week and next from the Book of Genesis speak to us of origins and meaning.  “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth . . .,” we hear today (Genesis 1:1). Here and in later blog posts, I would like to explore certain aspects of this book on humanity’s beginnings and God’s plan for us.

From time to time many of us find ourselves thinking about the big questions in life. A child may ask of us, “Where do trees come from?” A friend may ask, “Do you really believe there is life after death?” We may ask ourselves, “Why am I here?”

It is hard to answer these questions without speaking about the existence of God, whom our faith confirms created us and everything good that exists, and who therefore gives meaning to life and the whole universe. When God is part of the answer to these kinds of questions, we discover a certain order in creation.

Believing in God separates us from those who erroneously conclude that all of creation, including ourselves, is somehow a result of chance or our own efforts and not the initiative of the One who when asked by Moses his name, said, “I am” (Exodus 3:14). When we pray the Creed, we begin by stating this belief and recognize that there is a power and a reality far greater than ourselves to whom we are responsible.  God is the name we give to this reality, who is not merely a transcendent, all-powerful, spiritual force, but a personal being.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical on caring for our common home draws our attention to how the creation account in Genesis teaches us something of the reality of human existence in the world. “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself” (Laudato Si’, 67).  These relationships remind us that the magnificence of God’s creation is a gift to be shared by all generations and so we all share in the responsibility to care for the gifts of nature as we care for one another.

What the Holy Father is spelling out is the primacy of an “authentic human ecology,” a relationship of the person, of the environment, and of social-economic development, understanding that as humanity advances, together we need to be respectful of the environment. This brings a Catholic worldview to bear on the discussion and helps us to see more clearly the moral lesson woven into the story of creation.

Men and women are called to live in peace with God and in the natural world.  As we proceed as a society, nation and people in the world in efforts to improve the human condition, there should be a clear harmony between efforts to promote integral, including economic, human development and those on behalf of our common home.

This is the first post in a series on the Book of Genesis.

Giving Students a BOOST

February 3rd, 2017
Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

Both the name and the corresponding initials of a new Maryland state initiative describe a cooperative effort to provide students with a brighter future.  It is the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today scholarship program, known by the acronym BOOST and enacted this past spring, which gives a “boost” to low-income families across the state, empowering them with the equal opportunity to choose the school that is best suited for their children.

Last spring, hundreds of students from across the state, from schools representing many different faith traditions and from urban, suburban and rural areas, descended upon Annapolis to urge legislators to support programs that would expand educational opportunities and provide for an equitable expenditure of educational funds.  The following month, the BOOST legislation was passed and signed into law as part of a bipartisan effort.

In the program’s first year, nearly 2,500 scholarships were awarded and accepted, worth a total of about $4.8 million. The new scholarship program served families throughout the state, with students in 20 of Maryland’s 24 counties receiving BOOST scholarships and with more than half of the scholarship recipients coming from minority families.

An important aspect of school choice programs is that they do not take away funding from public schools.  For example, in the District of Columbia, the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is part of a three sector approach that provides increased funds for public, charter and non-public schools. And in Maryland, the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a record $6.4 billion state investment in the state’s K-12 public schools, while also calling for the BOOST program’s funding to increase by $2 million to a total of $7 million for the new fiscal year.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is holding a “Catholics in Annapolis 2017” gathering on February 15, offering participants an opportunity to meet with legislators and discuss key issues such as continuing and expanding the BOOST scholarship program. To join in or to stay informed, please visit the website www.mdcatholic.org/JoinCAN.

As the students who successfully lobbied legislators this past year demonstrated, together we can give a BOOST to our state’s children and help them achieve their dream of a better education.

World Day for Consecrated Life

February 1st, 2017
Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

The offering of Jesus to the Father in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, which we celebrate tomorrow with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, “expresses very well the figure of the Church who continues to offer her sons and daughters to the heavenly Father,” and thus is a fitting time to observe the World Day for Consecrated Life, said Saint John Paul II in his message for the first such occasion in 1997.

The purpose of this day is to show esteem for consecrated life and praise God for this great gift, and also to promote religious vocations.  This year we do this as the Church begins a special process of examination into how we “can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love” – whether realized in religious life, the priesthood or marriage – as stated in the recently-presented preparatory document for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.  “Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him,” says Pope Francis to young people in his letter accompanying this preparatory document.  “Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey?”

In asking how better to encourage vocations, we should note studies showing that while nearly all young people consider marriage, most never even give any thought to the religious life or the priesthood.  This suggests, on this day dedicated to consecrated life, that invitation and raising awareness are of primary importance.

Simply asking the young people in our families, neighborhoods, high schools and colleges to think about possibly being a religious sister or brother or priest might itself lead to an increase in these vocations.  Certainly, those who have heard and answered the call did so in the context of others having engaged them.  Sister Gilmary Kay, R.S.M., in our Office of Consecrated Life would be happy to talk with you about religious life, and you are also invited to attend discernment retreats and other events.

When we come to the typical characteristics of a person in religious life, you need only look around – they come from all backgrounds and look like the people in your neighborhoods, classrooms, and workplaces. As the report on sisters and brothers who professed perpetual vows in 2015 shows, they previously worked in diverse careers and most have either college or graduate degrees.  Yet, although they might come from many different backgrounds, one thing I always find in common is the joy they exhibit.  As you can see in this video of the profession of vows for a religious community where I was honored to preside last fall, each of the newly-professed sisters is a radiant bride of Christ.  This joy, and their generosity of spirit which brings to the Church and our culture an encounter with Jesus, is a blessing for us all.

Is it confusion or different approaches?

January 30th, 2017
Pope Francis prays in front of an image of the Holy Family during a prayer vigil for the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 3. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prays in front of an image of the Holy Family during a prayer vigil for the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 3. (CNS/Paul Haring)

A very small number of people, whose voices have been amplified by some of the Catholic media, have challenged the integrity of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

Yet, what seems to be at the heart of the issue is not a misstatement of doctrine in the exhortation but rather its invitation that we affirm the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage, the consequences of divorce and remarriage without benefit of annulment, and the place of pastoral accompaniment of those who do not fully follow the teaching, as well as the determining role of individual conscience when assessing personal culpability before God and therefore before his Church.

For some, the issues are very clear.  The teaching is lucid, the canon law is exact and therefore the priest’s responsibility is to apply the law.  For others, the teaching of the Church is broader.  The ancient and received teaching of the Church includes the recognition of the condition of the person, the ability of the individual to even understand the regulations of the law, the necessity of pastoral outreach and engagement, and the inviolability of individual conscience, even when it is erroneous.

Pope Francis is asking us to be aware of all these elements, the teaching on marriage and on conscience, as well as the example of Jesus’ mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

At a recent meeting with a number of priests, when the topic of the pastoral implications of Amoris Laetitia and its pastoral application came up, most were explicit that they recognized an affirmation of their own pastoral concern and accompaniment in the apostolic exhortation.

It seems that what is at issue is not what the exhortation says but rather where one chooses to place the emphasis.  Some seem much more comfortable emphasizing the teaching and the obligations of canon law.  While so many more, the  majority of bishops, including those who were a part of both synods on marriage, accept the canon law, but also see the Gospel value of accompaniment and the Church’s recognition of the state of an individual’s conscience in the whole process of judgment making.

In the story related in Saint John’s Gospel of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus is confronted with the obligation, strict and clear, of the law, and he provides what the Church for 20 centuries has seen as the merciful response of the Lord.

Jesus is called upon by the scribes and the Pharisees who point out the obligations of the law to answer their question.  “What do you have to say about the case?”  It seems fair enough.  A simple yes or no should suffice.  The Gospel goes on to point out that “They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him” (John 8:6).  The woman has been caught in adultery, the law says she should be stoned, therefore the conclusion is clear and simple – stone her!

What does Jesus do?  He does not abolish the law.  He does not annul the application of the law in this case.  He does not deny that there is an expected response invoking the full rigor of the law.  Nor does he apply the law in the way that is anticipated.

What he does is recognize the sinful human condition of the woman, avoids condemning her, and then tells her to go and sin no more.

We should see in this Gospel narrative more than just a recounting of the mercy of God at work but also an application of the lesson to ourselves.  We are all caught up in the human condition.  No one can claim to be perfect as is our heavenly Father. There must be space for that mercy and compassion that we all constantly need in order to be helped back up so that we can continue on our way trying to sin no more.

In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis puts it this way: “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’” (308).  The internal quotation is taken from one of the Synod on Marriage and Family documents approved by the Synodal Fathers.

Yes, this approach involves what some would say are apparent contradictions.  But if we begin with the recognition that Jesus came for our redemption, that the Son of Man has come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), and that it is not the righteous but sinners that the Son of Man has come to heal (cf. Mark 2:17), and if we take as our inspiration the image of Jesus, the one showing him to be the Good Shepherd with the lost sheep around his shoulders, we can begin to recognize what it is Pope Francis is telling us.  The wider context for reading any particular sentence in Amoris Laetitia involves the two realities: the Fall/the human condition and the gratuitous redeeming mercy of God.

My experience with so many priests is that they are already living out their priesthood in the way envisioned by the Pope – with generosity and fidelity, striving to make present the merciful face of the Father to their people.  Amoris Laetitia is an affirmation to every priest endeavoring to imitate the Good Shepherd, and a warm encouragement to continue this good work with the people entrusted to his care.

But it strikes me that there is even more of an undercurrent to the present position taken by a very small number of clergy and their media supporters.  It seems that a part of the distress evident in what has been described as a “tempest in a teapot” is the fact that Pope Francis is challenging all of us to move into a far more Gospel-identified mode of living and being Church than we may have been comfortable with.  We need to ask ourselves if perhaps the Church has not become too identified in the minds and hearts of many people with the politics and power struggles of the moment.  Have we failed to persuade others of the significance of the Gospel message, so that they create the culture that reflects those values?  Have we become too comfortable with announcing aspects of the Gospel but not necessarily witnessing its full demands?

The great charge that Jesus gave to us is to be his witnesses (cf. Acts 1:8).  Years ago, Pope Paul VI reminded us in Evangelii Nuntiandi, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (41).

Pope Francis gives us a model of bearing witness in word and deed, not just word, to the simplicity of life to which we are called in the Gospel.

Perhaps it might be very hard to let go of the symbols, medieval ornaments, and the ecclesial style and privileges that are marks of the Church of another era.  It may also be difficult for all of us in leadership positions to recognize that decrees, declarations and statements are not the best way today in which we reach people, touch people, engage people, and strengthen their adherence to Christ or even bring them to Christ in the first place.

At the opening of the first synod on the family, there were those few voices that asked why we were even discussing the pastoral implications of the Church’s teaching since we already have the answers.  The overriding majority of bishops from around the world at the synod recognized that what is needed today is not just a repetition of Church discipline, but an evangelizing outreach that would go out, encounter, engage and accompany those who should be with us and are not.

Once we start with the recognition that the teaching of the Church has not changed, nor has the call to compassionate accompaniment, nor has the Church’s understanding of the role of human conscience, and the acceptance that this is what Amoris Laetitia is presenting, then any real doubts or concerns should find their response.

Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Schools

January 30th, 2017

Catholic Schools Week

The annual celebration of National Catholic Schools Week brings back for many of us memories of our own experience of the gift of Catholic education.  Mine include the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who taught me at Saint Mary of the Mount School.  Yet, this experience is not something relegated to the past – it is enjoyed by many, many young people today.

We celebrate the gift of this educational opportunity in a special way during National Catholic Schools Week, which is observed from January 29 to February 4 and has as its theme: “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

Every day, the teachers at the 95 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington offer 27,000 students that same gift of an academically excellent education rooted in our Catholic identity, which prepares them to follow their own call and someday make a difference in the world, guided by the light of their faith. Nationally, nearly two million students are enrolled in Catholic schools, many of which have waiting lists for admission. These Catholic institutions of learning, homes away from home, bring to students an encounter with Jesus which can transform lives and renew the world.

Our Catholic schools here and across the country are communities of faith because our Catholic identity is woven into the educational experience so that students learn that their faith is a way of life. In our schools, Jesus is truly present in every classroom.

Our Catholic schools are communities of knowledge. The academic excellence that is a hallmark of our schools can be seen in the 32 Catholic schools in the archdiocese that have been named as Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education since that program began in 1982. This past fall, four of our schools – Saint Pius X Regional School in Bowie, Saint Patrick School in Rockville and Our Lady of Victory School and Holy Trinity School in Washington – earned that honor. Over the years, eight of our schools have earned that distinction twice.

Our Catholic schools are communities of service where students learn how blessed it is to give of themselves. Every day, as they learn how to be productive citizens in their future careers, they help each other in the classroom and share God’s love and mercy with others too by bringing food to the hungry, collecting clothes and other supplies for the poor, visiting the elderly and helping younger children.

Catholic schools are truly a gift and rely on our support, and on community and government partnerships, to make Catholic education affordable and accessible for families. They are a gift I carry with me every day, knowing from personal experience what a blessing they are for every student and for our nation and world.

Reflections on White House Executive Order

January 29th, 2017
(CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

(CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA)

Earlier today, I sent the following letter to the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington regarding the recent White House executive order.

Today, I write to you regarding the recent White House executive order which suspended entry into the country of foreign nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, for 120 days, reduced the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States, indefinitely suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and calls for heightened review procedures for these peoples. A version of the order can be read here.

At this time, the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing, but in the meantime, real people and real humanitarian concerns are being affected. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement on the matter, which you can review here.

My hope is that you might find helpful these additional thoughts. As I recently noted, we are called to care for one another, whether it be our longstanding neighbor down the street, or a newcomer to our nation seeking relief from brutal religious and political persecution. It was earlier this month that our Holy Father reminded us that “Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself.”

Here in our Church of Washington, we strive to do just that every day, through our pastoral care, through our many services at the parish level and at Catholic Charities, and in some cases, by simply raising our voices to confirm the dignity of every human life. Last Friday at our Rallies and Masses for Life, and at the March for Life, our voices – our presence – could not be ignored in the defense of the unborn and life at every stage. So too now do we raise our voices in support of all refugees, especially those fleeing religious persecution.

As the federal government pursues any legitimate national security concerns, we hope that it will do so not at the expense of innocent people who are in need, and that it will take all necessary actions to ensure that their safety is protected and that it will expedite all processes to address the need for humanitarian relief.

Through organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians, we must continue to make our voices heard, urging the U.S. government to welcome in a particular way Christian refugees, who have been the object of genocide, and all men, women and children fleeing persecution, that they be protected and welcomed after swift but appropriate screening. Through our immigrant and refugee outreach programs, we must continue to serve as a visible sign of God’s mercy and our solidarity with our brothers and sisters no matter how far they may have traveled.

The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors.

 

Why We Pray and March and Speak Out

January 28th, 2017

why-we-march

Some time ago I visited a mother who had given birth to sextuplets – six tiny bundles of life. As I gave a blessing to each of them, with pride in her voice and joy in her eyes, she described that child’s own identifiable personality even though they were so young and tiny that I could hold each one of them in the palm of my hand.

How precious were each of those infants, as all babies are, not simply upon their birth, but beginning with their conception in the womb, made in the image of God and thus demanding of respect and protection from that very first moment. At present, however, and for more than forty years, people have grown up hearing that under the heading of “choice” it is all right to kill that same precious and innocent human life at any time before birth, even when nearly full-term.

It is said that silence and ignorance are allies of evil and this is certainly true with respect to abortion. So ingrained and commonplace is the mentality and practice in our society that many have become inured and numb to the violence. Moreover, so staggering and beyond comprehension are the nearly 60 million innocent unborn children taken in abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that they risk becoming just numbers. However, these are not mere statistics on the page. We are talking about real human lives and the loss of each one is an alarming tragedy.

This is why we cannot be silent. This is why we dare not turn our attention away. We pray and march so that these innocents will have someone who will speak for them. We labor in order that unborn children will not be ignored, forgotten, invisible to people’s consciences, to remind the nation that behind the word “abortion” and euphemisms like “choice” and “reproductive health” are real human beings.

Every abortion takes an innocent human life, and with abortion proponents routinely opposing health and safety standards for abortion clinics, women seeking an abortion are themselves at risk of physical injury or death, as studies have shown. Added to this are the emotional, mental and spiritual scars that abortion often leaves behind. All this calls as well for our support, compassion and practical assistance, such as pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes, Sanctuaries for Life and the Gabriel Network, Isaiah’s Promise, and the Project Rachel ministry.

Our witness must be the voice that awakens our society to the emptiness of telling women that abortion is the answer to their problems. We must work for the right to life and bring hope and healing to those women and men who are or have been in crisis situations. May God give us all the determination to build a culture of life, defending the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.

A Way of Life

January 26th, 2017

way-of-life

Over the last week, American civic values have been on full display as many people have travelled here to witness the presidential inauguration, as well as some who have raised their voices on a whole host of issues. Unlike these, one event in our nation’s capital is not a once-every-four-years occurrence or every decade or a once in a lifetime gathering, but rather has been an every-year event for the last four decades, which welcomes new generations of participants each and every year. This is the March for Life, which this year takes place tomorrow.

Preceded by the morning Youth Rally and Mass for Life hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, and a like gathering for adults and families, at these events and the march, hundreds of thousands of voices are raised to announce the truth that every human life is sacred.  What is so encouraging to me is the huge number of high school and college students who participate.  While many of these young people are local, there are also many who have endured long bus rides from destinations all over the East Coast and Midwest, and wherever they are from, they are willing to stand outdoors for many hours in generally less than welcoming weather conditions.  Even more impressive, for many of them, their participation in pro-life advocacy does not begin and end with the Rally and March – it is a year-round commitment to human life, something that is part of the fabric of their lives.

Often called the Pro-Life generation, these young people bring a beautiful new perspective to their pro-life advocacy.  Family photo albums have always been filled with baby pictures, but this is a generation for whom their lives before they were even born have been captured in sonogram photos. Looking at these sonograms and sharing their parents joy at what it means, they have no doubt that they were a living human being in their mother’s womb. They are also the generation who have the experience of the integration of children with special needs into play groups and classrooms, and they know that their lives are precious too.  They know that there are gifts that are given and received when your circle of classmates and friends includes kids who have intellectual and physical differences.

Through the archdiocese’s #iStand4Life initiative and other programs, young people are able to share via digital media platforms what they do, day-in and day-out, 365 days a year to protect, support and stand for life.  In addition, some have told their stories of promoting life as part of a video contest and I invite you to watch them.  The testimony of this young generation, which amplifies the truth that human life is the foundation of everything we are and have, is worth listening to.

Assisted Suicide: A Choice Without Compassion

January 23rd, 2017
Mother Marianne Cope, Kalaupapa, 1899

Mother Marianne Cope, Kalaupapa, 1899

As we pray and walk together in defense of vulnerable unborn life later this week, we recognize that life at the other end of the spectrum is increasingly threatened as certain extremist groups mount aggressive campaigns to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Soon, the Maryland General Assembly is expected to consider a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to help certain people kill themselves.  Last year, the D.C. government enacted such a measure, under a misleading and euphemistic title, which is now subject to congressional review. The media often erroneously describe the issue as “aid-in-dying” or the “right to die,” but do not be misled – such laws are not about allowing people to die, but actively ending life, that is, a license to kill.

What we are witnessing here is an effort to convince people to consider the sick and dying to be a burden to their families and society, and to regard their lives as not worth living.  This is of course antagonistic to the God-given dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. The choice offered by assisted suicide is a false compassion lacking true care and concern for the dying, as Pope Francis has noted. Instead of regarding suffering people as disposable and eliminating them, we should accompany them with love and support them with access to better palliative care.

A beautiful example of this truly merciful response to illness and suffering was that offered by Saint Marianne Cope, whose feast day we celebrate today.  Following Saint Father Damien, she embraced and provided loving care and hope to the wretched patients who had previously been given only despair by society when they were banished to the leper colony on Molokai.

A broad coalition of disability rights groups, medical associations and faith communities, Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide, notes that allowing doctors to legally facilitate a patient’s death would threaten the trusted relationship between physicians and patients.  Also, experience in places where assisted suicide is already legal also shows that it would likely not be limited to the terminally ill, but would also endanger the elderly, disabled persons, and people facing depression and non-terminal serious illnesses.  Recently, medically-assisted deaths have been given in the Netherlands to a man who struggled with alcoholism, women with depression and post-traumatic stress, and also to children too young to fully comprehend.  It has also been argued that mentally ill people should also have the “right” to assisted suicide.

The need to protect human life in many respects has never been greater.  Instead of a prescription to kill the sick, we should accompany them in their suffering and offer them love and hope so they know that they are not alone and never a burden. That is the true compassionate choice and a death with dignity.

Inauguration Day Prayer

January 20th, 2017

In 1791, in the early days of our nation under the Constitution, Bishop John Carroll wrote a Prayer for Government then under the administration of our first president, George Washington. On this day more than two centuries later which sees the inauguration of a new president, I would like to adopt this prayer and raise with you our voices to God for his blessings on this nation and his holy Church:

We pray Thee O Almighty and Eternal God, Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; the bishops of this nation and all other prelates and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude President Donald Trump of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. 

We pray for Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland, and Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia, for the members of the Maryland General Assembly, the D.C. Council, and the legislatures throughout the nation, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. 

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.  Amen.