Speaking to the roughly 1,000 people present at the 15th Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on April 23 in the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, D.C., Sister of Life Bethany Madonna encouraged the leaders gathered there to be like the colt that was chosen by Jesus for the important task of carrying Him into the city on Palm Sunday. 

“You are His ride to this present day Jerusalem,” she said. “He is with you and within you, and it is here that He is crucified, suffers, dies and rises to establish His kingdom in human hearts.”

Sister Madonna noted that the colt was inexperienced and weak, as no one had ever ridden it before, but God chose it anyway, with Jesus instructing His disciples to say, “The Master has need of it” if anyone questioned why they were untying the animal (Luke 19:34).

“Jesus loves you and wants your weakness,” she said, adding that God would give them the strength to endure any insults that come along with standing up for their faith by defending human life and serving those who are vulnerable. Following her talk, Sister Bethany Madonna led the crowd in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

The annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast brings together leaders from a variety of different realms, and is an example of the “bright tapestry of our faith,” said Mark Randall, the event chairman of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Though everyone there came from different backgrounds and may have differing political beliefs, “We come together this morning simply as brothers and sisters in Christ,” he added.

Woven throughout the morning were prayers given by each speaker, beginning with an opening invocation by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, who prayed that God would “take away hearts of stone” and “replace them with hearts of flesh” that are “open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit” and “filled with the joy of Easter.” He also prayed for peace in the United States and a culture in which “each person’s God-given dignity is cherished.”

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also spoke at the breakfast, noting President Donald Trump’s dedication to protecting religious freedom both in the United States and abroad, as well as his commitment to protecting the unborn.

Mick Mulvaney, White House chief of staff, speaks April 23, 2019, during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Opening his remarks, Mulvaney said he had never understood why Catholics read Matthew 6:6 on Ash Wednesday, during one of the most public displays of faith, when it says to “pray to your Father in secret.” After speaking to a priest about this question, he said he learned that Christ’s instruction was given to encourage people to do the opposite of what was popular at the time, which was talking a lot about their fasting, giving alms, and praying. 

“The reason we do it today is because not enough people do it – not enough people are comfortable saying, ‘Yeah, I went to church today,’” he said, adding that he feels the Trump administration empowers its staff to be open about their faith and to try to integrate it into their policies. To conclude his talk, he led everyone in praying the Our Father.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted opened his remarks with the words that he called “our self-forgetful God revering battle cry: Christ is risen, He is truly risen.”

“This Easter proclamation clarifies faith, rings with hope and calls to charity,” he said.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix speaks April 23, 2019, during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Bishop Olmsted appealed to everyone gathered to be saints, because, “Christians are called not to complacency, but to greatness,” he said. 

In particular, he encouraged everyone to be witnesses to the faith through the sacrament of marriage.

“You, heads of our domestic churches, the smallest and most vital cell of church and society, have the responsibility to be all in for the sacramental marriage vow,” he said, noting that it includes an openness to human life, “whether through the marital act or through fostering and adoption of children who have no parents.”

The breakfast also included brief remarks by Roxann Dawson, the director of the recently released film Breakthrough, and Abby Johnson, the author of the memoir Unplanned, which was recently adapted into film. Johnson, who was formerly a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic before having a change of heart, now runs the non-profit, And Then There Were None, which helps people who work in the abortion industry to transition out of doing so. 

“If there is anyone who thinks they are too far gone to receive the mercy of Christ, then you do not know the same God that I do,” Johnson said. Since the film Unplanned was released, she said she has gotten messages from dozens of workers in the abortion industry who want to leave, as well as women who decided to cancel an abortion appointment.

The keynote speaker for the morning was Curtis Martin, the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), who quoted Mark Twain, saying, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, speaks April 23, 2019, during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

He noted that salvation history follows a pattern, beginning with God offering a covenant to His people. He then offers them blessings, and the people get so distracted by the blessings that they forget God, turn away from Him, and begin to suffer, said Martin, noting that he believes “we are right here,” in that step.

“The next step is good news,” he said. “The people suffering cry out to God for mercy, and He hears them and grants mercy.”

Martin noted the joy of the Resurrection as “the foundation of all our other hopes,” saying that just as Jesus rose after “things looked absolutely hopeless,” He could bring renewal to the country in a time of crisis and division. Concluding his remarks, Martin encouraged everyone to turn to God in prayer, and to be part of a “great Catholic awakening.”

“The answer is not for us to start trying harder,” said Martin. “…We don’t need to work harder – we need to fall farther to our knees to beg God, because He is the one who will do the work. He is the only one who can bring renewal to this nation.”