Father Andrew Bulso, pastor of St. Edward Church in Nashville, stood in the well of the Tennessee House of Representatives on the first day of the 113th General Assembly and reminded the representatives that without God, their efforts will be fruitless.
Father Bulso served as the Chaplain of the Day for the House of Representatives and offered the invocation for the opening session on Tuesday, Jan. 10. For his prayer, he drew from the first verse of Psalm 127: “If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do builders labor.”
“If we don’t bring God into this, it’s never going to last,” Father Bulso said, explaining his message to the representatives, who included his father, Gino Bulso, the new representative from House District 61 in Williamson County. “But if we recognize that it starts with him, and he’s going to bring it to fulfillment, and turn it over to him, his providential care will bring it to a good end.”
Father Bulso found his way to the House Chamber after his father informed the Assistant Chief Clerk of the House, Kim Cox, that he was available to lead the invocation, Rep. Bulso said.
“She said … he was more than welcome to do it,” Rep. Bulso said. “So she handled it from her side, and we made sure his schedule allowed him to be here. And it worked out just perfectly.”
After introducing his son, Rep. Bulso joined his colleagues in the House, his wife Kathy, his mother Virginia, his children, and grandchildren in listening to Father Bulso’s prayer. “Obviously a very special moment,” said Rep. Bulso, who is serving his first term in the House.
“I have to admit, this looks a little different from my normal pulpit and my normal congregation,” Father Bulso said to chuckles from the legislators. “But ultimately I’m still looking at a congregation of God’s children, so thank you for having me here. It’s an honor, and I’m very, very grateful for this invitation.”
“As we begin this opening session of the 113th General Assembly we humbly and gratefully acknowledge that every good work begins with you, and by you is brought to completion,” Father Bulso prayed to God. “In the name of your son Jesus Christ, God incarnate, born as our savior, we ask that as we seek to build up the earthly kingdom that you have entrusted to our care, you will help us to remember always the Kingdom of Heaven.”
He led the legislators in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and then concluded by saying: “Thank you again. May God bless you all, may God bless this great state of Tennessee, and may God bless America.”
For the Bulso family, it was a momentous day. “We’re just excited for Dad,” Father Bulso said. “It’s all very new, his first foray into government and public service in this way. We’re all excited.”
It was the first time Father Bulso witnessed the ceremonies of the opening of the General Assembly, with the swearing in of the legislators and the election and swearing in of the House leaders. “It’s very fascinating to see the whole thing unfold, even though today was mostly ceremonial, to watch all the process, and to recognize this is democracy in action here.”
Both father and son see a role for faith in public affairs.
“We’re sort of bombarded with the message that faith doesn’t have a place here,” said Father Bulso, a 2005 graduate of Pope John Paul II High School. “When you actually come and witness it, you realize it’s really the foundation, it’s written into everything. The main question really is does God exist. If God exists, he’s got to be a part of this. He’s got to be part of everything we do, otherwise it will all be in vain.”
“Two things come to mind,” said Rep. Bulso, a parishioner at St. Edward. “One of course is Pope John Paul II’s encyclical ‘Fides et Ratio,’ that faith and reason work together, the two instruments God gives us to know Himself as the truth. So when you’re focusing on your faith, you’re also focusing on truths of nature.
“The second is that we know from the Gospel of St. Matthew that there was a period of time when St. Peter denied that he even knew Christ, even though he’d seen him raise Lazarus from the dead, he’d seen him make those who were lame walk, and he had seen him calm the winds and calm the rain,” he added. “And still at a critical moment in life Peter denied him.
“And one thing that occurs to me is that on occasion our elected officials, although they know Christ, they deny him. They chose for financial, political, or other reasons, not to do what they know to be right.” Rep. Bulso said. “I’m here not to deny him whatsoever and with the grace of God to say, ‘Yes, I know Christ. I know that he stands for truth. I know that he stands for goodness. I know that he stands for mercy,’ and to bring those same values to whatever legislation we pass.”
While Father Bulso led the invocation for the House of Representatives, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville was in the Senate chambers down the hall leading the invocation for the State Senate.