The most important thing that Catholics can do for their country is to pray for it, and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. more than 1,000 Catholics gathered to do just that. The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) brings people from around the country to Washington, D.C. each year to pray for America, its citizens, and its leaders. It began in 2004, in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization, and this year’s keynote speech was given by Curtis Martin, founder and director of FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
During his keynote speech, Martin encouraged the crowd to not be discouraged, but to continually turn to Christ in order to transform their lives, their families, and their country. He said, “We as a people have not been faithful to Christ. But the answer is not that we try harder. We need to fall farther, to our knees. God is the only one who can bring our renewal.”
During the NCPB, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™, stopped by Morning Air® to talk to host John Harper about the history of Catholicism in America, and why Catholics have their own prayer breakfast.
Msgr. Swetland explained, “We’ve always been uncomfortable in our own country, as it historically has been a Protestant establishment country. This is one of the myths, that we were a secular country from the beginning. And while our Founding Fathers may have established the foundation of what later became very secular, in fact, if you look at our history the government institutions were basically Protestant established institutions.”
Speaking from his own experience, Msgr. Swetland said, “The public schools were places where basic Protestantism was the religion of the school. I know this from first-hand experience. I went to elementary school at a time when the elementary schools I went to had not yet implemented the Supreme Court ruling banning school prayer and banning scriptural readings and devotions in the morning. And we had the basic thing that a Protestant would expect to have in such a public setting. You would have readings from the King James translation of the Bible and meditations that were sort of the lowest common denominator Protestant type of prayer.”
“And as a Protestant at the time, I didn’t even think about it or notice it,” he continued. “It was only years later when I had become Catholic, thinking back on my childhood experience … to realize how much those schools and our government institutions were really in a Protestant establishment institutions.”
Between Catholics facing a history of Protestant dominance and now an increasing secular dominance in the public square, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is a unique opportunity to pray, be inspired, and meet fellow Catholics who are working for the good of America. It is an opportunity to grow in the Catholic faith in order to better serve and renew our country.
“We as Catholics still feel that we have to prove ourselves as good Americans. And that’s a tension that we all feel,” said Msgr. Swetland. “But what we should recognize is that we’re Catholic-Christians first, and then we are Americans second. And if we get that order wrong we’re not being faithful to the Gospel.”
Listen to the conversation below: