“I wanted to retrace my steps from four years ago,” when Trump’s election brought what the Colombian-American said was a “chaotic energy.” “I want to show gratitude for divine mercy. I am a Latino. A grandmother. These four years have been too hard. Gratitude that this president will leave, God willing, God willing, God willing. And leave us to peace and a means to rebuild."
A few miles to the north, Mary Suarez Hamm was saying a special prayer every hour with a group of other Catholics in hopes Trump would remain the president and continue to pursue policies Hamm has devoted her life to — opposing abortion, same-sex marriage and protecting religious legal rights.
“Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy mother, I knock, I seek. I ask that my prayer be granted,” Hamm prayed. “Deliver us, O God of truth, from the belief that the Catholic Church is anti-democratic, deliver us, from the belief that the United States was not founded on Christian principles.”
Hamm, retired from running a pregnancy center and working for the region’s archdiocese, took a break at 8:15 a.m. to attend Mass at Little Flower Parish in Bethesda. She attends every day. Wednesday, she was worried.
“What was on my mind was: Bring it to the good Lord. It’s easy to be downtrodden when things don’t go the way you want them to, but God knows what will happen,” she said.
Not that she thinks her prayers are magic. “It’s a silly old relationship between a child and a parent. When a parent says no, maybe it’s not meant to be. It’s for our best good.”
Worry, fear and stress led some Americans religious and not religious to find themselves in sanctuaries of different kinds Thursday as the outcome of the country’s presidential race remained elusive. People prayed or meditated on certain outcomes. They looked for inner strength to deal with whatever happens. Although police in many U.S. cities had braced for a Wednesday of protests and even potential violence, instead the streets remained quiet and many were looking for spiritual guidance in that silence.
Cindy DeLano, a Glover Park editor who has been in a church only a few times in the last 30 years, was so anxious about the outcome and potential violence that she found herself in the cathedral both Tuesday and Wednesday.
“This is how stressed I feel!” she said Wednesday afternoon on the cathedral’s front steps, with her friend Hugh O’Neill.
She came for the fresh air and the walk and to step away from work, but DeLano, who is not religious, looked for the right plea in the sanctuary’s quiet.
“It’s hard for me. If you say, ‘God, can you make this okay?’ — I’m not convinced it works that way,” she said. She found another mantra: “'It’s going to be okay.' Even though she’s not convinced it will be. That Biden will win. That armed Trump supporters won’t come to the District.
DeLano found comfort in the reaction she got on Facebook when she posted that she had been in the cathedral. Even people with whom she hasn’t communicated well since Trump became president, she said, “liked” the post.
Since the quarantine began, most American houses of worship have been closed or their hours severely limited. Many Catholic parishes have kept generally open hours during the day.
More than 1,000 people came to the cathedral on Tuesday and about 200 on Wednesday, said cathedral spokesman Kevin Eckstrom.
Across the Potomac River, Laraine Bennett was repeating a similar mantra at noon Mass from the back row at Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria. The communications manager and writer didn’t want to say who she was supporting, but said her focus and prayer are on unity, healing and peace in the country.
“All will be well, all will be well, and everything will be well,” she repeated, a tweak on a centuries-old Catholic expression: “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
“It gives me peace to put it in God’s hands. It gives a sense of peace to my soul,” Bennett said. She said prayer is partly about discerning what is true — in a deep way, but also in a pragmatic way on a day when literal allegations of truth and falsehoods were flying.
“I pray every day to the holy spirit to help me see what is true. That I’d be enlightened,” she said. “Sometimes things are confusing and that’s okay, too. Right now we just pray that we accept the situation as it is.”
Acceptance was one of the primary things on the mind of one worshiper at St. Matthews Cathedral in downtown Washington. The woman, who emigrated from Peru and who declined to give her name, teared up as she talked about children separated from parents after traveling across the U.S. border — a trip she made herself as a young woman. Her voice shook at she motioned to boarded-up buildings as far as the eye could see. She blamed these situations on Trump.
“There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing you can do. It’s only God,” she said on the steps after 1:20 p.m. Mass, which was attended by about 20 people. If Trump wins, she said, “we have to respect it. There must be some reason. Something we need to learn. It’s not that God doesn’t love us. We have to learn to live with one another.”
O’Neill, 80, a retired lawyer and longtime Republican, said he felt calm inside the cathedral, even as uncertainty swirled. “The republic will survive,” he said. “My only fear is we run out of money.”