The public prayer for freedom in the United States continues this fall, with a Catholic prayer rich in catechesis: The “Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation,” written by Father Frederick L. Miller, chair of the Department of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, begins this Saturday morning at 8 A.M. (ET) after Mass celebrated by Bishop James D. Conley.
In “2012 we turn to Our Lady for help,” at a “time of need,” the introduction of the prayer, hosted and distributed by EWTN, the global Catholic channel, explains. “Many of the values that shaped our Country from the beginning seem to be at risk. Pope Benedict XVI and the American Bishops have noted the erosion of religious freedom in the United States, the first value guaranteed by the Constitution,” it continues. “The proximity of the Novena to the 2012 Presidential Election will also offer an opportunity to pray for all of our government officials and seek Divine Assistance in the elections.”
Bishop Conley, a Kansas native who was raised Presbyterian, is the incoming bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska; he talks about the reason for the prayers, and other Church and state matters with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Regarding the new “Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation”: What does Mary have to do with the upcoming elections?
BISHOP JAMES D. CONLEY: As Father Fred Miller reminds us in the introduction to our novena, “Catholics have always turned instinctively for help to Mary, Mother of God in times of need.” We are certainly in a time of great need in our nation, particularly as we prepare for the general elections in November. From the very beginning of our history in the United States, our Catholic bishops have turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a powerful intercessor. For example, in 1792, Bishop John Carroll, America’s first Roman Catholic bishop, chose Mary as the Patroness of the United States and entrusted our young nation to her maternal care. Mary is our life, our sweetness, and our hope — particularly in times of need.
LOPEZ: Is this presidential election in particular more important than others? Are prayers more necessary?
BISHOP CONLEY: It seems to me that a lot is at stake in these particular elections. Many of the foundational values that shaped our country from the very beginning seem to be at risk. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI and the American bishops have recently noted the erosion of religious freedom and the protection of conscience rights in the U.S., the first of our freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Other fundamental values seem to be in danger: the God-given right to life of every unborn child, the value of virginity for our young people and the virtue of chastity for all vocations, the very definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman who are open to receive life from God, and the responsibility we have to care for the disabled and the elderly until God calls them to Himself. There are many other issues, but these alone demand a certain urgency of prayer and concern.