St. Petersburg, Fla. — Regular 12:10 Mass-goers at Our Lady of Grace parish church were greeted by a bigger crowd and a different kind of security than they’re used to. The morning after accepting the nomination of the Republican party, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan joined fellow Catholics at Mass.
Sitting with his wife, mom, and other members of his family, Ryan appeared at home in the front row in front of the tabernacle, seeming to hold his wife, Janna, a little closer, and dig into the pew a little deeper with every word of the responsorial psalm. “Jesus urges us to realize that the life God gives us is finite and fragile,” the church’s pastor, Father Damian Amantia, said in his homily, preaching on the gospel of the day, as he would in front of any 12:10 congregation. “May God help us to understand the preciousness of the time he has given us,” so that we may live lives of “love, generosity, and reconciliation,” “compassion and peace,” he prayed.
The Mass, along with the prayers of people across the country, are “renewing and sustaining,” Ryan said in the church basement after Mass. “Really sustaining,” he repeated, as if preparing himself to go forth with this sacramental sustenance.
Representative Ryan said that he and Mitt Romney talk daily and the Republican nominee for president sometimes encourages him to ask Catholics to pray for them. Ryan relayed that he assures Romney that “oh we’ve got whole rosaries” being prayed across the country by Catholics.
He expressed his gratitude for “the social Magisterium of the Catholic Church,” Catholic social teaching, which “gives us the ability to exercise prudential judgment in a meaningful way,” by laying out principles, mentioning that that is part of a monthly dinner with other Catholics in Congress to discuss Catholic Social Teaching and how it is relevant to the public-policy challenges we face.
Ryan expressed gratitude, too, for living at “a great moment” when we can “openly talk about our faith and what we believe.”
“We’ve got challenges from our government today,” he added, using the religious-freedom fight to underscore the responsibility of the laity in civic life to Catholic social teaching. “Of all the times we need to be cognizant of the social Magisterium the time is now,” Ryan told a group of 100 or so Catholics in town for the convention in a gathering organized by former congressman New Jersey Mike Ferguson and his wife, Maureen.
“While we all don’t always agree on the means, we agree on the ends,”he said, again expressing his gratitude for having guideposts for moral discernment in public policy, in a brotherly reflection on some of the criticisms Ryan’s budget has sustained from some Catholics, most notably women religious who took a bus ride as activists against the plan.
The congressman appeared to receive the message of the first reading, which coincidentally seemed to be addressed to him: “Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God . . . called to be holy . . .” sharing his prayer that he might be a “good spokesperson” for that which he believes.