Jesus at the Minnesota Capitol: Eucharist Adored at State Building
Amid the busyness of a state capitol that addresses crucial questions on life and the unborn, Catholics gather to pray because ‘we have to do something positive to counter the negative and the evil.’
On March 3, Amy Smith of Minneapolis made her usual Friday Eucharistic Holy Hour in a less-than-usual place.
Instead of going to the adoration chapel at her parish, Annunciation in Minneapolis, she traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pray in a basement room of the Minnesota State Capitol — two floors below the state’s House of Representatives chamber.
Smith, 47, joined other Catholics to pray that government leaders would uphold life and other Christian values during a First Friday day of Eucharistic adoration organized by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, (MCC) the Church’s public-policy voice in Minnesota.
In the past several years, Smith has especially prayed and worked for pro-life issues, including opposing a bill to codify abortion and remove restrictions on it, which the Minnesota governor signed into law in January.
“Just praying for these legislators to have a change of heart and a change of mind — and you never know what those prayers will do, and you just keep knocking on Jesus’ door and you don’t give up,” she told the Register.
On each First Friday of the month from January through May this year, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed from 9am to 4pm in a quiet room near the Capitol complex’s tunnel system to help Catholics enter the right spiritual mindset to work effectively with their legislators, said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director and general counsel. While dioceses in a number of states have held Eucharistic processions culminating outside their state capitols in recent years, Adkins believes Minnesota is the only state where the Eucharistic Lord is adored regularly inside its Capitol building.
MCC has long wanted to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the Minnesota Capitol because Christ’s Real Presence makes an impact on legislators and the state, he said, adding that by enkindling passion and love for the Eucharist, its First Friday adoration also complements the U.S. Church’s ongoing Eucharistic Revival movement.
“We need to bring him to every periphery, as Pope Francis calls it; and the Capitol is certainly one of the existential peripheries of our society,” Adkins said. “We also believe that when we pray for our elected officials it makes a difference.”
MCC has promoted First Friday adoration to legislators, its supporters, parishes around the state and on its website, Adkins said. Adorers have included legislators, staff members, senior citizens, home-school students, those attending legislative meetings and hearings, and members of rural communities outside of the Twin Cities.
While lamenting passage of the new abortion law, some adorers said they were motivated to pray that other legislation would support life and family values. This year, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate have introduced bills on assisted suicide, gender affirmation and cannabis legalization as well as drastic energy mandates.
Adoration at the Capitol is another way of asking Christ to exercise his Lordship over the state, Adkins said.
“You look at some of the bills being proposed and some even being enacted, and you just say, ‘Lord we can only do so much,’” he said. “‘You’re ultimately the One in charge. You’ve won the victory.’ Our job is to just be faithful and being missionary disciples, preaching the truth, trying to be a good voice for human dignity and the common good.”
The recent abortion legislation weighed heavily on Minnesota Rep. Jon Koznick’s mind during his visit to First Friday adoration on Jan. 4, which he said led him to pray for wisdom of the legislative members.
“I happened to be here on a couple of the Fridays; and with a lot of consequential issues that we’re facing at the Legislature,” said Koznick, a Catholic whose district includes suburbs and towns south of Minneapolis, “it was pretty neat to be able to take some time out of everything else and just sit and have quiet time to hopefully hear the voice of God, the voice of Christ.”
First Friday adoration also has provided a way to talk about Catholicism with non-Catholic staff members, he said.
“There is consolation to have [the Blessed Sacrament] that close and as a great reminder as a person of faith, whether you’re Catholic or not, to know that we can do the best that we can in our job that we’re in power to do; but it’s a reminder that the Lord is truly in control, and we have to recognize that at the end of the day,” Koznick said.
The room where adoration is held, known as the “Historic Governor’s Dining Room” was chosen for its intimate, chapel-like feel, Adkins said, adding that many Capitol spaces are available for the public to rent and that MCC didn’t encounter problems reserving it. Created in 1936, the room has simple, cream-colored walls and a mural of a Northern Minnesota river.
Bringing the Eucharistic Lord to the Capitol is “quite remarkable,” said Father Byron Hagan, co-pastor of St. Mary in Lowertown (St. Paul), who brought the Blessed Sacrament to the Capitol for adoration on March 3. The Capitol is less than a mile from the hospital where Father Hagan also serves as a part-time chaplain.
“It’s the sort of thing that maybe people don’t expect can even happen, but as a matter of fact, not only is it quite legal, but it is quite in keeping with the tradition in the United States that open displays of religion are integral to the activity of citizens in their interaction with their government.”
While an MCC staff member is always present during adoration, there is always a degree of risk in exposing the Blessed Sacrament, Father Hagan said. But it’s a risk the Church finds worth taking within the propriety guarded by liturgical and canon law, he said. “In a certain way, the Lord is prepared to be brought anywhere and everywhere.”
Bringing the Lord anywhere dispels evil and falsity that’s in the culture, said Nancy Barrett, who prayed at First Friday adoration on March 3 with her husband, Paul, and friend Mary Kathleen Sitzmann. All belong to Nativity of Our Lord parish in St. Paul.
“Adoration anytime that Our Lord is anywhere, he’s God Almighty, so his power is going to supersede all evil, whether it’s the flesh, the world or the devil,” she said. “Our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist is God himself.”
After the Barretts and Sitzmann prayed at the Capitol adoration “chapel,” the state’s Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee heard testimony across the street on legislation to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which the U.S. bishops recently stated would endanger religious freedom.
The Barretts and Sitzmann didn’t mention the ERA legislation, but Sitzmann, 75, emphasized that, overall, they wanted to be witnesses and ambassadors for Christ in the world.
“And to say the right words that will change hearts,” she added. “But we have to incorporate our prayer with that to give it more oomph. …We have to do something positive to counter the negative and the evil.”
Nancy Barrett, 64, prayed for a softening of the hearts of elected officials as well as Christians. “beginning with ourselves, because if we aren’t willing to be converted, we can’t be hypocritical and expect others to follow suit.”
Inviting Catholics to the Capitol to pray for their state’s common good can help educate them and could “spark a good kind of interest and involvement in their government that is important as citizens in our system,” Father Hagan said.
The Lord’s Real Presence, however, has the most profound impact, he said.
“His presence drawing people of faith and drawing members of the Catholic community there simply to come to the Capitol space, to this public space, the commons of the state of Minnesota, to pray in the Lord’s presence in a certain way is the end goal itself.”
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