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Fr. James Martin, SJ, delivered a closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday evening. We asked him for a behind-the-scenes look at his writing process: How did he go about crafting a prayer that would be heard and prayed by so many people? How did he want to use his 40 seconds? 

“I was honored when I was asked to pray one of the Benediction prayers at the convention this year. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should accept, since I think priests and religious should, in general, shy away from anything overtly political. And there was also the issue of the Democratic approach to abortion. But after talking with a few Jesuits, I was reminded that Cardinal Dolan had prayed at both conventions four years ago, and that it was a real opportunity to pray with a great many people. Needless to say, I also asked the permission of my provincial and let the Jesuit Curia in Rome know as well. (For good measure I contacted Cardinal Dolan, who is my ordinary.)

“The prayer itself was easy to write, since I knew what I wanted to say: I wanted to invite people to pray for a country where all lives had dignity, all people were loved and all were welcome. I also consciously tried to write a prayer that I could deliver at the Republican convention, too. In other words, less partisan and more religious, focusing on the sanctity of life. And for me, “pro-life” means not simply respect for the unborn, but also respect for the lives of so many on the margins whose lives are endangered — LGBTQ people, refugees and migrants, the homeless, and so on. It was pretty easy to write, since I think petitionary prayers should be clear and direct. The only challenge was keeping it to 40 seconds. Obviously, I would have included many more groups if I had more time. The initial prayer included COVID patients and healthcare workers, for example. But short as it was, I hope that it conveyed the consistent ethic of life. A friend who works in the Vatican read it and said, ‘Catholic social teaching in under a minute!’ Which was my goal.”

Watch Fr. Martin deliver his benediction:

Read the benediction:

A Prayer of Welcome

Loving God,

Open our hearts to those most in need:

The unemployed parent worried about feeding his or her children.

The woman who is underpaid, harassed or abused.

The Black man and woman who fear for their lives.

The immigrant at the border, longing for safety.

The homeless person looking for a meal.

The LGBT teen who is bullied.

The unborn child in the womb.

The inmate on death row.

Help us to be a nation where every life is sacred, all people are loved, and all are welcome.

Amen.

Read more at America Magazine.

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