Archbp. Carroll’s “Prayer for Government”

The following prayer was composed by John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore, in 1791. He was the first bishop appointed for the United States in 1789 by Pope Pius VI. He was made the first archbishop when his see of Baltimore was elevated to the status of an archdiocese.

John was a cousin of Charles Carroll of Maryland, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Americans among the readership might print it and bring it to your parish priests and ask them to use it after Mass, perhaps on Inauguration Day.

This needs no translation for Catholics who love their country!

PRAYER FOR GOVERNMENT We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name. We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation. 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 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 Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, 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. Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy 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 Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Amelia says:

    I’m am afraid I am too agrieved pray.

  2. Wrong response for a Catholic.

  3. kat says:

    John Carroll was the first pastor of our parish, Old St. John’s in Silver Spring, MD. His mother built a small chapel on her property in 1774. It was replaced by a stone building in 1893 which today offers the TLM at 8am every Sunday. I think both John Carroll and his mother would be pleased and right at home at Mass here.

  4. little gal says:

    Someone must have been praying this prayer prior to the election because we might have gotten stuck with Biden in another role:

    From Fox News:

    “The wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden let it slip to Oprah Winfrey Monday that her husband had a pick of two jobs in the Obama administration. Jill Biden said President-elect Barack Obama gave Biden the choice of being secretary of state or vice president.”

    Clearly the country is better off with Biden in the benign role of V.P.

  5. Aelric says:

    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.

    But then there is this:

    “Obama’s second full day as president falls on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. The sources said Obama may use the occasion to reverse the “Mexico City policy” reinstated in 2001 by Bush that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family planning groups that promote abortion or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion services.”

  6. Thomas says:

    Amelia: We can at the very least, pray that the new president will be prevented from doing great damage to our country, especially with regard to life and freedom. To pray for his success seems to be counter to our intentions as Catholics, if he is to implement the things he has said he will. And we must pray for his conversion!

  7. I still have the feeling that I am in a bad dream and have yet to awaken from it.

  8. Margaret says:

    My pastor actually read this, in an abbreviated form (just the president and congress part) as the conclusion to the prayer of the faithful this past Sunday.

  9. Lepanto says:

    Bishop John Carroll was also the founder of our nation’s oldest Catholic University, Georgetown in 1789. It is no accident that Carroll wished to put his university in the nation’s capital. He desired Catholics to be active members in American society and politics even if it went against the prevailing fads of the time.

  10. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Evenin’, gentlepersons!

    Has anyone reading had occasion to hear the prayer of Gene F. Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, for our President-elect?

    If so, I’d be most interested in hearing some feedback.

    In particular, I’d be interested in hearing some feedback in light of the above prayer by Bishop Carroll.

    I’m not gonna say anymore.

    Have a jolly good night, all.

  11. Argent says:

    If you would like to watch, here’s the YouTube link.

  12. Jim says:

    Although I am sure that Archbishop Carroll was officially appointed by the papacy, if I remember correctly he is the only American bishop who was elected to his position by his peers rather than appointed in the usually manner.

  13. Argent :

    I clicked off after the opening statement: “O God of our many understandings….

  14. Bernie says:

    I hear you father. We need to pray. I just guess that the prayer (beautiful indeed) better suits a goverment that is minimally open to the works of the HS. Not a perfect leader just one that desires to be infused with such virtues and wants to cooperate with them.

    Again, praying is needed now more than ever, but something more in line with an exorcism is more what we need now. Obama is no simple fool. The Enemy made a brilliant choice this time, on par with Stalin and Pot, just more modern, after realizing he did not need bloody dictators to carry on his destruction. Courts and democracies were available too, Gramscian and chique style. Think I am exaggerating? 50,000,000 and counting… think again.

  15. DavidJ says:

    If you don’t pray for him, how else will his heart change? Pray for him to find God’s will and do it!

  16. Thomas says:

    Today (MST) I read that he is going to take quick action on funding abortions “globally”.

    Officials with the incoming administration of Barack Obama have confirmed that he will indeed overturn a pro-life policy of President Bush on his first day in office. Despite campaigning on the rhetoric of wanting to reduce abortions, Obama will make one of his first actions promoting them globally.

    I wonder what Mr. Kmiec will say about this. Oh, wait, I think I know. But it won’t make much sense.

  17. Stephen says:

    Today is the day of obama-nation

  18. Joe says:

    the good Archbishop was also a Jesuit! (until the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, and as a priest got himself excommunicated at one point for promoting your little insurrection to the good Canadiens)

  19. Matthew in Fairfax says:

    Since others brought this up, the full text of Gene Robinson’s prayer is here:

    Not meaning to criticize or praise, just a couple of observations.

    There is some style to the prayer:
    “Bless us with tears…
    “Bless us with anger…
    “Bless us with discomfort…
    “Bless us with patience…
    “Bless us with humility…” etc.

    There is also, “Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.” (emphasis added).

    According to commentors, the prayer was not broadcast on HBO.

  20. It’s not always easy to pray for our elected leaders, but it’s our duty – and this is a fine prayer to use to do so. Thanks, Fr. Z, for posting it.

  21. Paul Haley says:

    If we don’t pray for him, surely he will not be able to do the right thing. That doesn’t mean we pray for his success in implementing FOCA or removing restrictions on abortion funding but we pray nonetheless. My prayer would be a simple one: Almighty God, give our new president the grace to see and do the right thing in Thine eyes.

  22. avecrux says:

    Just a few thoughts…
    I watched the Youtube link with my family because I wanted them to see the contrast.
    Yes – the “Bless us with anger” was about “discrimination” – he mentioned specifically discrimination towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Later on, he asked that we go beyond “tolerance” to “respect” and “embrace”. This is not a question of loving the sinner and hating the sin. This was a prayer that our nation will respect and embrace the sin. This is a direct contrast to Archbishop Carroll, who asked that the administration be conducted in righteousness, “restraining vice and immorality”.
    Not really surprising given that in the invocation Gene Robinson chose not to utter the Name of Jesus Christ – again, in very sharp contrast to Archbishop Carroll. Who or what is the god of many understandings – and would any of us want to be called a “child” of that?
    Finally, when praying for Pres. Obama himself, Robinson said “Make him colorblind”. Apart from the fact that my kids laughed out loud because it just sounded really bad (like “give him indigestion!”) he went on to say that is so there are no blue or red states, only the United States… if we citizens are, in the words of Archbishop Carroll “blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law”, we won’t be becoming purple anytime soon.
    I intend to pray for discernment – for myself, my husband, my children, those dear to me, our Church leaders, our nation as a whole… that in all the hype, we will remain watchful and sober.

  23. AJM says:

    Regardless of one’s political and moral persuasion, I find nothing wrong – as an American – to pray Carroll’s prayer at this moment of constitutional change. Like it or not, Obama will be our President in a few hours, and though I intend to be a member of the loyal and vociferous opposition, I will not deny his elected station. My son is in the military, and a McCain voter, but last night he reminded me in a phone conversation that Obama is the new commander in chief and nobody should think otherwise. Point taken. We are lucky to live under a system that gives us the opportunity to immediately begin working on electing a pro-life replacement to Obama. But to stick our head in the sand and act “aggrieved” strikes me not only as (Fr.Z says) un-Catholic, it is wholly un-American. I hope that the conservative Catholic community avoids emulating some of the worst excesses of the anti-Bush forces over the last eight years. We’re better than that.

  24. chironomo says:

    A beautiful prayer. In light of the policies that we have so far heard of from the new administration, it would seem to be “spitting into the wind” as they say. To pray that God may guide his decisions and the decisions of our congress is necessary. However, when the policies are enacted, and legislation emerges from congress and is signed by the president that are in direct conflict with our faith, we have to have the courage to proclaim that our prayers have not been answered, and that our president and government are working in opposition to the will of God. Otherwise we seem to be giving God’s blessing to that which opposes God.

  25. Liam says:

    Here is the prayer the Pope sent to the new President today:

    “At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, cooperation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God will to set for the whole human family.”

  26. Edward says:

    AJM –

    Respectable position. I commend you and all others who are able to do what you suggest. However, call me a pessimist, but seeing this man take the office of president surrounded by the likes of our current batch of Washington politicians and journalists and the Hollywood entertainers combined with the messianic devotion of those useful idiots who elected this man president, gives me no hope that America has much of a future in this world. However, this country gets what it deserves. Apparently we deserve Barack Obama as president and so as an American I guess I will just accept this punishment and pray that God will deliver us from this mess sooner than later.

  27. ckdexterhaven says:

    I’m going to be praying the Rosary a LOT today. I have been offering up my sorrow/despair. The worship (yes, I said worship) of Obama is scaring me.

  28. JP says:

    Finally! someone is expressing exactly how I feel! It is not the color of his skin that concerns me, but the color of his soul……..amen!

  29. Maggie says:

    Fr Z, thanks for posting this. Sorrow gets us nowhere – it’s time to fight against evil and pray for blessings.

    As a native Baltimorean, I particularly enjoyed this :-)

  30. Mike B. says:

    Indeed, it’s the color of his soul that should concern us all. It should not be too long before we see what type of leader he will be. Let us all pray, and pray hard.


  31. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    What a bunch of crap. [A comment which reveals something about your own state of mind and heart.]

  32. Will says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for posting this. I’ve been praying it before Mass since the election. Mr. Obama did not earn my vote, but he is president, and I offer that prayer in the hopes that he will be turned from his wrong-headed support for abortion.

    As Catholics, we must trust in the Lord to hear our prayers and to change the hearts of the President and of Members of Congress, as Americans we must act through our representatives and the ballot box to change the laws.

  33. irishgirl says:

    I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary before I turned on the TV to watch the inaguration. I also prayed at the end of the Rosary, “Dear Mary Immaculate, patroness of the US, and all you American Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God, whether native-born or come here as missionaries, please pray for our new President, that his heart will be converted.”

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