Put your trust in God and pray for officials

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 3, 2001, issue.
My college Latin professor, Father Joachim, was ahead of his time. Long before Regis Philbin was offering “lifelines” to contestants, Father Joachim allowed us to seek help from a classmate when we did not know the answer to a question he posed in class. “Whom do you trust?” he would ask. His elongated pronunciation of “whommm” added drama.
On a recent morning I heard a television advertisement for soap, which boasted that a particular brand is “the most trusted deodorant soap in America.” I suppose that’s possible, but I had never before heard the words “soap” and “trust” in the same sentence.
We are exposed every day to a motto of immense importance. “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our coins and paper currency. We touch those words with our fingers, hand them back and forth to one another in business, collect them in jars on our dressers, and give them as gifts on birthdays. But do we take them to heart?
Since my ordination as bishop, probably because I sense my smallness next to the magnitude of my vocation, I have come to appreciate the importance of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
“I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)
Paul did not intend his admonition as a pious platitude. It is because of this passage that we include a petition for government leaders in the General Intercessions at Mass. Paul prayed that the civil authorities of his day would allow Christians to live in peace; that Christians would achieve peaceful relations with non-Christians; and that God’s will for all to be saved and know the truth would be done. In a sense, such prayer was an act of entrustment: the Christian community was to hand itself over to God’s care and to entrust its civil leaders to him as well.
There is no question that one facet of this admonition was “direct” evangelization — prayer that all people will come to know the truth about Jesus Christ. However, prayer for civil authorities also bears another shade of meaning — that they will lead in ways that are consistent with the deepest truth about life as created by God, even if they do not believe in God!
From time to time one hears criticism of the Catholic Church’s involvement in political issues (especially those which concern our consistent life ethic) based on the assumption that we are trying to impose our religious belief on others. We are not trying to impose anything on anyone but are fulfilling an obligation to call human society to its deepest roots and its most noble goals.
At the close of the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral letter titled “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”), in which he offers reflections on the Great Jubilee and thoughts on where the new millennium should take us. In section 51, as he treats issues in which the Gospel’s perspective is misunderstood or unpopular, he writes: “For Christian witness to be effective, especially in these delicate and controversial areas, it is important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church’s position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on nonbelievers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person.”
Thus our prayer for civil authorities is an act of entrustment to the wisdom of God. Political persuasions may win elections, and polls may reveal that a majority of the population holds this or that opinion, but only leading according to the deepest truth about the human person ennobles our cities, our state, and our nation. We pray for that kind of leadership.
I think our leaders want our prayers for wisdom, but they also need our support to lead courageously. For even though such intercessory prayer is an act of entrustment, it is not an abdication of our responsibilities as citizens. Instead, it is an expression of the truth upon which we ourselves should base our opinions, our votes, our involvement in the community and our every-day decisions. In other words, it is also an act of surrender and conversion.
Please join me in daily prayer for our president, our senators and representatives, our governor, our mayors, candidates for public office, all civil authorities, and their families. May we be led only by the truth, which is in God alone.
Some of my Latin classmates studied harder than I, so I gambled they knew the answer to a question that stumped me. I prefer a certain brand of soap over others. But I trust in God. So does our nation, at least on paper. Let us pray and work to make it so in fact.

Latest from From the Bishop

Put your trust in God and pray for officials

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 3, 2001, issue.
My college Latin professor, Father Joachim, was ahead of his time. Long before Regis Philbin was offering “lifelines” to contestants, Father Joachim allowed us to seek help from a classmate when we did not know the answer to a question he posed in class. “Whom do you trust?” he would ask. His elongated pronunciation of “whommm” added drama.
On a recent morning I heard a television advertisement for soap, which boasted that a particular brand is “the most trusted deodorant soap in America.” I suppose that’s possible, but I had never before heard the words “soap” and “trust” in the same sentence.
We are exposed every day to a motto of immense importance. “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our coins and paper currency. We touch those words with our fingers, hand them back and forth to one another in business, collect them in jars on our dressers, and give them as gifts on birthdays. But do we take them to heart?
Since my ordination as bishop, probably because I sense my smallness next to the magnitude of my vocation, I have come to appreciate the importance of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
“I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)
Paul did not intend his admonition as a pious platitude. It is because of this passage that we include a petition for government leaders in the General Intercessions at Mass. Paul prayed that the civil authorities of his day would allow Christians to live in peace; that Christians would achieve peaceful relations with non-Christians; and that God’s will for all to be saved and know the truth would be done. In a sense, such prayer was an act of entrustment: the Christian community was to hand itself over to God’s care and to entrust its civil leaders to him as well.
There is no question that one facet of this admonition was “direct” evangelization — prayer that all people will come to know the truth about Jesus Christ. However, prayer for civil authorities also bears another shade of meaning — that they will lead in ways that are consistent with the deepest truth about life as created by God, even if they do not believe in God!
From time to time one hears criticism of the Catholic Church’s involvement in political issues (especially those which concern our consistent life ethic) based on the assumption that we are trying to impose our religious belief on others. We are not trying to impose anything on anyone but are fulfilling an obligation to call human society to its deepest roots and its most noble goals.
At the close of the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral letter titled “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”), in which he offers reflections on the Great Jubilee and thoughts on where the new millennium should take us. In section 51, as he treats issues in which the Gospel’s perspective is misunderstood or unpopular, he writes: “For Christian witness to be effective, especially in these delicate and controversial areas, it is important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church’s position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on nonbelievers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person.”
Thus our prayer for civil authorities is an act of entrustment to the wisdom of God. Political persuasions may win elections, and polls may reveal that a majority of the population holds this or that opinion, but only leading according to the deepest truth about the human person ennobles our cities, our state, and our nation. We pray for that kind of leadership.
I think our leaders want our prayers for wisdom, but they also need our support to lead courageously. For even though such intercessory prayer is an act of entrustment, it is not an abdication of our responsibilities as citizens. Instead, it is an expression of the truth upon which we ourselves should base our opinions, our votes, our involvement in the community and our every-day decisions. In other words, it is also an act of surrender and conversion.
Please join me in daily prayer for our president, our senators and representatives, our governor, our mayors, candidates for public office, all civil authorities, and their families. May we be led only by the truth, which is in God alone.
Some of my Latin classmates studied harder than I, so I gambled they knew the answer to a question that stumped me. I prefer a certain brand of soap over others. But I trust in God. So does our nation, at least on paper. Let us pray and work to make it so in fact.

Latest from From the Bishop

Put your trust in God and pray for officials

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 3, 2001, issue.
My college Latin professor, Father Joachim, was ahead of his time. Long before Regis Philbin was offering “lifelines” to contestants, Father Joachim allowed us to seek help from a classmate when we did not know the answer to a question he posed in class. “Whom do you trust?” he would ask. His elongated pronunciation of “whommm” added drama.
On a recent morning I heard a television advertisement for soap, which boasted that a particular brand is “the most trusted deodorant soap in America.” I suppose that’s possible, but I had never before heard the words “soap” and “trust” in the same sentence.
We are exposed every day to a motto of immense importance. “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our coins and paper currency. We touch those words with our fingers, hand them back and forth to one another in business, collect them in jars on our dressers, and give them as gifts on birthdays. But do we take them to heart?
Since my ordination as bishop, probably because I sense my smallness next to the magnitude of my vocation, I have come to appreciate the importance of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
“I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)
Paul did not intend his admonition as a pious platitude. It is because of this passage that we include a petition for government leaders in the General Intercessions at Mass. Paul prayed that the civil authorities of his day would allow Christians to live in peace; that Christians would achieve peaceful relations with non-Christians; and that God’s will for all to be saved and know the truth would be done. In a sense, such prayer was an act of entrustment: the Christian community was to hand itself over to God’s care and to entrust its civil leaders to him as well.
There is no question that one facet of this admonition was “direct” evangelization — prayer that all people will come to know the truth about Jesus Christ. However, prayer for civil authorities also bears another shade of meaning — that they will lead in ways that are consistent with the deepest truth about life as created by God, even if they do not believe in God!
From time to time one hears criticism of the Catholic Church’s involvement in political issues (especially those which concern our consistent life ethic) based on the assumption that we are trying to impose our religious belief on others. We are not trying to impose anything on anyone but are fulfilling an obligation to call human society to its deepest roots and its most noble goals.
At the close of the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II issued a pastoral letter titled “Novo Millennio Ineunte” (“At the Beginning of the New Millennium”), in which he offers reflections on the Great Jubilee and thoughts on where the new millennium should take us. In section 51, as he treats issues in which the Gospel’s perspective is misunderstood or unpopular, he writes: “For Christian witness to be effective, especially in these delicate and controversial areas, it is important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church’s position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on nonbelievers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person.”
Thus our prayer for civil authorities is an act of entrustment to the wisdom of God. Political persuasions may win elections, and polls may reveal that a majority of the population holds this or that opinion, but only leading according to the deepest truth about the human person ennobles our cities, our state, and our nation. We pray for that kind of leadership.
I think our leaders want our prayers for wisdom, but they also need our support to lead courageously. For even though such intercessory prayer is an act of entrustment, it is not an abdication of our responsibilities as citizens. Instead, it is an expression of the truth upon which we ourselves should base our opinions, our votes, our involvement in the community and our every-day decisions. In other words, it is also an act of surrender and conversion.
Please join me in daily prayer for our president, our senators and representatives, our governor, our mayors, candidates for public office, all civil authorities, and their families. May we be led only by the truth, which is in God alone.
Some of my Latin classmates studied harder than I, so I gambled they knew the answer to a question that stumped me. I prefer a certain brand of soap over others. But I trust in God. So does our nation, at least on paper. Let us pray and work to make it so in fact.

Latest from From the Bishop