by Father Michael Cronin

 

As a former staffer for the U.S. House of Representatives, watching the scenes on television last Wednesday, I saw many familiar places, places I visited, places where I worked, gave tours, studied the history, and many places that I encountered on a regular basis. My office at one time was on the first floor of the Cannon House Building right near the front public entrance. I got to know the Capitol Police quite well. From my desk in that small office, I could look out the widow and have a front row view of the Capitol right across the street. I was witness to many peaceful protests.

Over the years, I was able to meet and to know members and Senators, congressional staff, governmental officials, foreign leaders, and, of course, the public, to which the Capitol belongs, no matter your political preference. In addition to the People’s House, I visited the White House on occasion, even the Oval Office, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. One day I ran into one of the justices of the Supreme Court and, because of a mutual family acquaintance, he invited me to his chambers for a brief visit. Indeed, living and working in the nation’s capital was an extraordinary life experience.

In 2001, while studying canon law at Catholic University of America, I had the honor and privilege of offering a prayer to open a session of the House. Some of my family were in the House gallery. The prayer that I said that day 20 years ago immediately came to mind when I became aware of and witnessed from afar the tragic events last Wednesday occurring for the whole world to see. It was especially poignant moment because I had a feeling that lives would be lost. This past Sunday I shared that same prayer — from "Book of Blessings" — with my congregation at St. Mary’s Parish in Winona. It still seemed relevant.

Almighty and eternal God, in Your great mercy, You have revealed Your glory to all the nations. Let the light of Your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress and shine forth in all these proceedings and laws framed for our government. May those who serve in this body be enabled by Your powerful protection to discharge their duties with honesty and integrity. May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness, and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality. May all people in this great land be preserved in union and peace and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. We pray to You, who are Lord and God, forever and ever. Amen.

I wonder when the prayer will be realized. I guess I will keep praying it every day. Sad to say, in the same year, 2001, I would be driving down North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., on my way to class when the events of 9/11 began to unfold.

Freedom is a great gift to us all and allows us to have different political preferences and policy differences, and in the Capitol, a safe place to have serious, difficult, challenging, and yes, civil, conversations and debates. Citizens have a right and responsibility to participate by voting and by advocating our positions. We ought to plan to do this without resorting to violence, threatening people’s lives, and destroying what belongs to all of us. Is it possible that all of us can learn something valuable having experienced and witnessed this sad day in our nation’s history?