WASHINGTON – In these deeply partisan times – one job in the House of Representatives depends on remaining apolitical. The man who fills that role is House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy.
For almost ten years, Fr. Conroy has served representatives on both sides of the aisle when they need pastoral counseling. Before coming to the Hill, however, Fr. Conroy was just another American deeply frustrated with Washington.
"When something political would come up I'd find myself arguing with the radio," Fr. Conroy told CBN News in a recent interview.
While teaching at a Jesuit high school in Portland, Oregon, Conroy says politics caused him deep distress.
"It really was my prayer that I could let go of my lack of serenity, my anger or frustration or whatever it was when it came to politics. Lo and behold comes out of the sky the one job in the United States where I absolutely have to abstain from politics," he said.
Answer to Prayer Results in Fr. Conroy Coming to the US Capitol
Oddly enough, Conroy says coming to the center of America's political discord was the answer to his prayers.
"In being the chaplain, what I would not want any member of Congress to encounter when they were encountering me, would be disappointment, impatience, anger, or judgment or any of those things," Conroy explained.
On Capitol Hill, he sees firsthand the challenges facing lawmakers.
"It can be brutal. Being in the public eye, always being criticized, rarely having the opportunity to defend yourself and when you do, you sound self-serving."
Engaging Members of Congress on a Personal Level
Conroy says his role allows him to engage members on a personal, rather than political, level.
"So to be mindful that your own member of congress, no matter how critical you are, that they are also a human being who's in need of your support and your encouragement, even in their failure," he said.
And even though the public might not feel this way, he believes civility is actually improving.
My sense is that the House is a better place now on that level than when I arrived," he explained.
And House members are friendlier with each other than most people realize.
"Some of the people I've seen over the years that are in public pitted against each other, I've seen in private sitting together, laughing together," he said.
When Darkness Overwhelms
But on days the darkness overwhelms the atmosphere, Conroy doesn't hesitate to call it out.
On one of those occasions, his heartfelt prayer went viral on a day he felt dark forces at work in the House and wanted to call the Holy Spirit back to the House floor.
"There was a sense in the House that there was a darkness that really was unsettling to everybody," Conroy remembered. "It was a very conscious prayer on my part, very intentional, but I wanted that prayer to be again, not condemning, not accusing, I did not want to blame anybody for what happened."
Fr. Conroy says he's not surprised the media was shocked to hear him casting out demons on the house floor. But when you live in a spiritual world, you know these things are there. And he feels it's his duty as House chaplain to call them out.