Sent by a reader:
In 1876, the centenary of the Declaration of Independence was commemorated with a months-long Exposition in the text’s birthplace. Though he was still to be named to the Premier See in the footsteps of John Carroll– a cousin of the Declaration’s lone Catholic signer, and in his own right a formidable leader of the Revolutionary cause — such was Gibbons’ reputation that the 42 year-old bishop of Richmond was asked to deliver the invocation at the event’s opening.
Taking as his springboard Carroll’s famous 1791 Prayer for the Nation, here’s James Card. Gibbons’ 1876 revision:
We pray thee, O God of might, wisdom and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted and judgment decreed, assist with Thy 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 Thy 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 Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all their 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 blessings of equal liberty.
We pray Thee for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.
We pray Thee, especially, for the Judges of our Supreme Court, that they may interpret the laws with even-handed justice. May they ever be the faithful guardians of the temple of the Constitution, whose construction and solemn dedication to our country’s liberties we commemorate today! May they stand as watchful and incorruptible sentinels at the portals of this temple, shielding it from profanation and hostile invasion.
May this glorious charter of our civil rights be deeply imprinted on the hearts and memories of our people! May it foster in them a spirit of patriotism! May it weld together and assimilate in national brotherhood the diverse races that come to seek a home among us. May the reverence paid to it constitute the promotion of social stability and order, and may it hold the aegis of its protection over us and generations yet unborn, so that the temporal blessings which we enjoy may be perpetuated.
Grant, O Lord, that our Republic, unexampled in material prosperity and growth of population, may be also, under Thy overruling providence, a model to all nations, in upholding liberty without license, and in wielding authority without despotism!
Finally, we recommend to Thy 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 Thy 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.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, descend upon our beloved country and upon all her people, and abide with them forever! Amen.