This week Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, S.J. resigned from his post as the chaplain for the House of Representatives at the request of Speaker Paul Ryan, and then took back his resignation with these words: “I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House Chaplain.”
Father Conroy was asked to serve as chaplain by former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. In his initial words on the matter, Speaker Ryan, also a Republican and a conservative Catholic, claimed that the chaplain’s prayers provoked “a few complaints.” While the speaker claimed otherwise, it’s widely believed that the prayers in question were those asking that the poor be considered during tax cut deliberations, as well as others that challenged members to think about the less fortunate among us.
When asked to leave, Father Conroy was told by Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff that maybe it was time for a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.
Whatever the story there, I am delighted that Father Conroy is still with us. I personally believe the best prayers are like burrs under our saddles, forcing us to take note of things we’ve refused to see and ultimately reconsider our positions.
So today I honor Reverend Conroy for following the call of Jesus of Nazareth, a champion of the poor and underserved, whose words often go unheeded. If our religious leaders can’t remind us to be our best selves, then I question the need for their prayers at all.
Here is his most recent prayer, where our citizens with special needs are remembered.
God of the universe, we give You thanks for giving us another day.
As the Members of this people’s House deliberate these days, give them the wisdom and magnanimity to lay aside what might divide us as a people to forge a secure future for our country.
We pray for all people who have special needs. May Your presence be known to those who are sick, that they might feel the power of Your healing spirit.
Inspire the men and women who serve in this House to be their best selves, that they may in turn be an inspiration to the Nation and to the world.
May all that is done this day be for Your greater honor and glory. Amen.
After his reinstatement, Father Conroy said–with apparent good humor: “The upside of the whole story is people are actually reading my prayers.”
Indeed, they are. Thank you, Father Conroy, for your service to every citizen of our country. I am not a Catholic, but you certainly speak for me and millions of others.