St. Petersburg, Fla.
The day after delivering his first major address to the nation, Paul Ryan attended daily mass at Our Lady of Grace parish in St. Petersburg. The church, built in 1929, is a beautiful structure that is “Byzantine in style with Romanesque features.” A sign in front of the church read: “ALL ARE WELCOME.”
The Republican vice presidential candidate was accompanied in his pew by his wife Janna and his mother Betty. A number of Catholic elected officials, such as Kansas governor Sam Brownback and New Jersey congressman Chris Smith, were also in attendance. Passages from 1 Corinthians, Psalm 145, and the Gospel of Matthew comprised the daily readings.
Following mass, Ryan cheerfully greeted fellow Catholics at a reception in the parish hall next door and delivered brief remarks without notes. “I just can’t tell you how sustaining and energizing it is to have so many people come up and say they’re praying for us,” Ryan told the crowd of fewer than 100.
“It’s a great moment for those of us in our faith to be able to openly talk about who we are and what we believe,” Ryan said. “I remember hearing stories from grandparents about how you couldn’t talk about those things in public life.”
After alluding to the prevalence of anti-Catholic sentiment in the past, Ryan mentioned challenges that Catholics face “from our own government today.”
“We’ve got challenges,” he said. “We’ve got challenges from our own government today—religious liberty top among them. These are challenges that test us.”
Ryan also discussed Catholic social teaching, which “gives us the ability to exercise prudential judgment in a meaningful way."
“Catholics don’t always agree on every means to the end, but we agree on the ends,” he said.
Ryan's address Wednesday night focused primarily on unemployment and debt--and the president's failure to lead on these issues--but it also included graceful remarks on faith, life, and liberty.
“None of us -- none of us have to settle for the best this administration offers, a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us,” Ryan said during his address Wednesday night.
Ryan told the convention-goers and 20 million Americans watching the speech on television that although he and Mitt Romney attend different churches, “our faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life, there is goodness, for every person there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of life.”
“The greatest of all responsibilities,” Ryan said, “is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”