National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Speakers Urge Supplication for Religious Liberty and Family

Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., said, 'The crisis of marriage and family today cannot be separated from a crisis of faith and a crisis of meaning. And so we must pray for our nation and for our families.'

(photo: CNA/Catholic Charities/Jeffrey Bruno)

WASHINGTON — Prayer is sorely needed as existential threats face faith, the family and religious liberty in the U.S., Catholic leaders insisted at a prayer breakfast held in the nation’s capital on Thursday.

“The crisis of marriage and family today cannot be separated from a crisis of faith and a crisis of meaning. And so we must pray for our nation and for our families,” said Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on May 7.

The prayer breakfast has taken place each year in Washington since 2004. Catholic leaders in business and politics, as well as bishops, priests and religious attend. Attendance at the 2015 breakfast was estimated at more than 1,000. Past speakers have included President George W. Bush, Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined Bishop Malone in addressing the crowd about the need for prayer, as challenges are presented to religious liberty and the family in today’s “crisis of faith,” as Bishop Malone said.

Abbott, a Catholic, shared his deeply personal story of a horrific accident that left him confined to a wheelchair as an adult. He prayed that God would grant him “the best possible outcome.” God answered his prayers, but not in the manner he expected.

“[God] responded by giving me challenges that made me stronger,” Abbott said. “I learned, as it turned out, that faith doesn’t mean trusting God to stop the storm. Instead, it means trusting him to strengthen us as we pass through the storm.”

In the same way, the Church in the U.S. must pray for strength to weather the storm that threatens its ability to practice the faith in public, he said.

“In America today, we are in a time of great need. There is an urgent need to pray, now more than ever, especially the need to pray for our religious liberties,” he insisted, citing the contraception mandate, legalized abortion and the push for acceptance of same-sex “marriage.”

“We see these assaults of faith continue across the entire country. We see this with the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor being forced to choose between a law being imposed upon them by their government or instead choose to follow the law of their Lord,” he said, referring to an ongoing lawsuit between the nuns and the federal government over their being forced to violate their consciences and provide their employees coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations and abortions through a third party.

Yet through prayer there is hope, he added, quoting Pope Francis and exhorting the faithful to prayer.

“I have found that there is no force as indomitable, as formidable, as prayer to almighty God. And as Pope Francis has said, and I quote, ‘To not pray is to close the door to God so that he can do nothing.’ He went on and said that ‘On the other hand, in the face of a problem, a difficult situation, a calamity, is opening the door to the Lord so that he can come in.’”

The family also faces a crisis of faith, Bishop Malone insisted. Recent popes have connected this crisis of faith with a crisis of the family, he added, noting that faith and family are interwoven.

“The family needs to be reawakened and supported in its vocation and its mission,” he said, noting that young Catholics need to be taught to pray in order to be goods husbands and wives as adults.

He also noted the importance of “a close accompaniment that encourages baptized married couples to rely on the grace received in the sacrament and that demonstrates the Church’s great affection and esteem for the vocation of marriage.”

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