Archbishop John Carroll, SJ, was the first Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States and the first Archbishop of Baltimore. It was under his leadership that the Roman Catholic Church became firmly established in America. He was born on January 8, 1735, and studied abroad for the priesthood because there were no seminaries in the American colonies. He was ordained a priest in 1767 and returned to Baltimore in Spring 1774. Although he did not take active part in the Revolutionary War, he was instrumental in reorganizing American Roman Catholics and establishing relations with Rome once the colonial ties with England had been severed. He was appointed Bishop of Baltimore in 1789 and founded the Baltimore Sulpician Seminary in 1791. In the following years, he worked with George Washington to secure federal funds for missionary journeys to the West. In 1806, he laid the foundation stone for the Baltimore Cathedral, and in 1811 became Archbishop of the four newly formed sees of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, Kentucky. By the time of his death in 1815, the Roman Catholic population of the United States had grown from 25,000 to 200,000.

He composed the “Prayer for Our Government” in 1791, and it still is fitting for today. The prayer encompasses, not only our country and its public officials, but also the entire Church and her leaders, our parishes, families, friends, and those who have gone before us. I will be saying this prayer during this 4th of July weekend and I encourage – no, I ask – you to do the same. America is in desperate need of prayer right now and it’s time to get all hands on deck to pray for our country, especially as we celebrate its founding and the freedoms that were secured by our Constitution.

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Prayer for Our Government 

by Archbishop John Carroll (1791)

We pray, O almighty and eternal God, who through Jesus Christ has revealed thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of your name.

We pray Thee, who alone are good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, the pope, the vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, all other bishops, prelates and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise among us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct your people into the ways of salvation.

We pray O God of might, wisdom and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.

Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by your powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to your unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to you, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of your servants departed, who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech you, a place of refreshment, light and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

Amen.

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