Sunday, May 17, 2009

On "Domesday," Back to the Drawing Board

After two months of ad intra bickering, outrage and protest that's spilled well onto the national stage, at long last, Domesday has arrived.

Yet amid the stunning omnimedia outpouring of opinions and emotions from all sides of the Obama-at-Notre-Dame firestorm, the church's two great contributions to the public forum -- namely, prayer and perspective -- have, candidly, sometimes seemed to go lacking over these last weeks.

So with today's commencement drawing ever closer at hand, the talking-points seem best left to the quintessential "American Catholic": John Carroll of Baltimore -- son of the colony of tolerance, cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and as the nation's first bishop, the father of the Stateside church.

On his elevation in 1789 -- the same year George Washington took office as our first president -- Carroll's flock numbered some 25,000 of the 4 million residents of the original 13 states. Yet even so, the community he led enjoyed significant respect thanks to what the Father of the Country himself termed both the "patriotic part which [its members] took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of [their] Government," and a witness in the civic realm "animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity."

In the American model of religious freedom, Carroll foresaw the prospect of a free church that -- while ever remaining patriotic -- could be ever more courageous, forthright and dynamic without a European-style entanglement to the state. And in a pluralistic society, he set the bar that remains today: that, lacking the prestige of the throne, his young church's contribution to the whole would rise and fall on its choicest treasure -- the "pure spirit of Christianity" it carried from the altar into the town squares and backroads of the new nation.

By the time of his death, the Stateside fold doubled in size. At the start of his mission, however, the founder-bishop composed a Prayer for the Nation still used in some quarters.

With church and state set to collide again hours from now, some 220 years later, we'd be remiss to not re-air it today:
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 N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, 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 the President 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 his excellency, the governor of this state , for the members of the assembly, 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.
In the cathedral Carroll envisioned as the icon of his concept, a lecture on his life and legacy was given last year by one of the first bishop's disciples... who's since been given the nation's most prominent ecclesial post.

On this of all days, either the talk's text is worth reading, or the video's worth watching... either way, have at it: