With no members of the General Assembly in the congregation, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington told the more than 200 people who attended Virginia Vespers at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, “They are where they’re supposed to be, and we are where we’re supposed to be — praying for them.”

According to Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, sponsor of the March 5 event, the legislators were absent because they were in session that evening “and would probably go late into the morning.”

Bishop Barry C. Knestout, homilist for the service, spoke about the third chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians in which the apostle instructs followers of Christ to put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”

The Benedictine College Preparatory Schola chants the Salve Regina during Virginia Vespers. (Photo/Diocese of Richmond Office of Communications)

He continued, “These are clearly not the virtues of the political or partisan world, where adversarial views are in conflict and unresolved unless one party neutralizes the power of the other.”

Noting that political life is “adversarial and antagonistic,” Bishop Knestout said Christians must take another approach.

“Our Christian faith is meant to shape the political environment in such a way that it can lead to peace and justice,” he said.  “Peace is a fruit of justice, which itself is a cardinal virtue, along with temperance, prudence, and fortitude that spring forth, as all virtues do, from charity.”

Bishop Knestout said that while Americans value “constitutional rights of free speech and liberty,” there has been a “disruption to the context for the exercise of these rights.”

The Schola Cantorum of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart chants during Virginia Vespers. (Photo/Diocese of Richmond Office of Communications)

He said media, Internet, self-publishing and blogs have turned the environment into “a Wild West of no-holds-barred rhetoric and ad hominem attacks on anyone seen as holding different political, cultural, economic, religious or moral view from the writers themselves.”

Bishop Knestout said Lent provided an opportunity to examine “our failures, weaknesses and vices.”

He continued, “This evening we gather and pray together, even with differing political views, all with the hope that by this Lenten practice of prayer, we might put on the virtues that express the ‘bond of perfection’ (Col 3:14), the communion born of holiness.”