Fr. Paul Arinze gives prayer before opening of 115th Congress Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Very Rev. Paul U. Arinze, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
arinze prayer
Here is a screen shot from C-Span of Fr. Paul U. Arinze of the Diocese of Madison giving the prayer at the opening of the 115th Congress of the United States in Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: Fr. Paul Arinze, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Janesville, gave the prayer before the opening of the 115th Congress on January 3. Following are his reflections on the experience.

I was really surprised when Speaker Paul Ryan asked me if I would be available to give the opening benediction at his swearing-in ceremony and the opening of the 115th Congress.

It was really special not only because of the historic nature of the event, but also that he is a parishioner of mine at St. John Vianney.

Of course, being a naturalized citizen, it reminds me of the great country that we live in and the promise of this great nation.

Excerpts from Fr. Paul Arinze’s prayer before Congress:

“Almighty, ever-living God, we ask you to send down your spirit upon the men and women of this House. Endow them with courage that is born out of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy: loyalty to their families, loyalty to their constituents, loyalty to the Constitution, loyalty to our country, loyalty . . . that knows no fear when truth and rights are in jeopardy. . . . May they always show forth in their lives and works the ideals of our country: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I travelled with the Speaker in his official vehicle from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., where he held a bipartisan prayer service that morning, to the Capitol. Being with the Speaker got me through a special security door other than the ones that the general public use.

We were at the Speaker’s office the evening before the swearing-in with his family and some of the district staff from Janesville. We got a personal tour of the Capitol by one of his staff members. Speaker Ryan came and greeted me and we had a brief talk before the tour. The morning of the swearing-in, I was seated in his office once I arrived at the Capitol.

His wife, Jana, and the children were there, too. I know them very well from the parish. The two boys, Charlie and Sammy, attend St. John Vianney School and Liza is a freshman in high school.

They are wonderful people and were very kind to me during my visit to D.C. I stayed in the same hotel with them and travelled with them to the different events that were held that day. We all flew back together the next day.

The Speaker introduced me to a good number of the members of Congress during the prayer service and also at the Capitol. At the prayer service, he introduced me to the Minority Leader Mrs. Nancy Pelosi. Congressmen Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, both Catholics, were my House floor hosts during the proceedings. They took time to explain to me how things work in the chamber.

After the ceremonies at the Capitol, we attended a reception that was hosted by the Speaker for new members of Congress and their families held in the Botanical Gardens.

The Office of the Chaplain sent me a guideline to follow for composing the prayer. It takes into consideration the many faith beliefs of the members. It was also limited to about 150 to 160 words. I had to send it to them a week ahead of time since it was included in the annals of Congress.

Speaker Paul Ryan is a very humble and God-fearing man. He and his family are always there at Mass and attend parish events. At the parish, he’s simple known as Paul and he prefers it that way.

Asking me to do the prayer on such a high-profile day tells you the kind of relationship he maintains with his parish and priest. I am happy that St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church and the Diocese of Madison were represented at the Capitol that day.

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