Role of faithful addressed at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Sister Constance Veit, communications director for her religious congregation, the Little Sisters of the Poor, speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast May 17 in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON – I would not have imagined a 10-minute speech to introduce the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s only 31 words, albeit a set of words packed with meaning.

The meaning became even more poignant when the Pledge was introduced at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., May 17 by Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr.
A member of the Navy SEALs, Byers noted that he led prayer groups and rosaries with other members of his unit. He received the Medal of Honor this year for rescuing a civilian hostage in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan in December 2012.
Byers said he wore a patch of St. Michael the Archangel on his uniform every time he went into battle.
As he stood, hand over his heart, Byers led a crowd of almost 1,300 people in reciting the Pledge at the 12th annual breakfast.
The role of the faithful in the public square was addressed by several other speakers.
Little Sister of the Poor Constance Veit reflected on news from the day before that the Supreme Court of the United States had returned the Little Sisters’ case against the U.S. government to the lower courts so that a resolution could be found between the parties. The sisters, who run homes for the aged poor around the country, including St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, object to the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that they provide contraception services to their employees. They also object to the workaround offered by the government because they believe that it would still make them complicit in what the sisters believe is an immoral practice.
Sister Constance said many people ask her what they would do if they lost the suit. She tells them they don’t have a fallback plan, because they firmly believe that God will never abandon them.
She recounted three pieces of advice she received from various people as the sisters fought this case: Dare to be of good cheer, see everyone as Christ would and trust in God.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) addressed the topic of religious liberty, especially in light of the Little Sisters case and others pending before the courts.
“These days religious liberty is under assault. A lot of people think faith is just an odd, colorful mask for the ugly face of intolerance,” Ryan said. “I am not saying we should feel put upon. I mean, saints were thrown to the lions. By that standard, we have it easy.
“What I am saying is, we have to advocate for our faith. And we should defend religious liberty not just on material grounds – that is, because people of faith do good things, like give to charity or volunteer. We should also defend it on spiritual grounds—that is, because living out our faith gives us joy.”
Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah told the crowd that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. “The globe is waiting for your response on major questions.”
He reminded the audience that Pope St. John Paul II said, “The future of the church and the world passes through the family.”
He noted that as archbishop of Conackry, Guinea, he dedicated all the pastoral letters in his first five years as archbishop to the topic of the family. It is important, he said, to protect the life of the family as the first cell of the church and society.
He encouraged those gathered to do three things: Be prophetic, to be faithful and to pray.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori closed the event with an invocation and blessing. He prayed especially for millions of people the world over who suffer religious persecution and discrimination.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.