"Thank you very much, Sister," said Rick Perry, passing a clutch of rosary beads back to Rivier College president, Sister Paula Marie Buley, following an hour-long breakfast campaign stop this morning.
"Actually, the governor asked me to hold a cross he brought with him, and I had given him my rosary, which was blessed by the Pope," said Buley. "What the governor said to me afterward was that he has a pair of rosaries at home that were also blessed by the Pope."
Buley said there wasn't any obvious significance to the trading of religious icons prior to Perry's Nov. 30 Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce campaign breakfast, hosted by Rivier as part of its series of President's Circle candidate events.
However, from a supernatural standpoint, pundits might say Perry could use all the help he can get in moving toward the Primary finish line with no more flub-ups. First there was the Nov. 9 memory lapse during a televised CNBC debate, followed by yesterday's additional "oops" moment, when Perry tripped up on the legal voting age, and date of the November 2012 General Election, during a town hall-style meeting at St. Anselm College in Manchester.
For the record, Perry was raised a Methodist and he and wife, Anita, currently attend a non-denominational church in Texas.
But Buley noted that Perry seems to express an "authentic faith" during his campaign travels, and pointed out that the candidate spoke off the cuff in his opening remarks about his respect for the Catholic tradition within healthcare education, from his perspective as the husband of a longtime nurse.
Perry is the third GOP Presidential candidate in the past two weeks to pay a visit to Rivier, a small Catholic college founded by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. On Nov. 29 Mormon Jon Huntsman was a guest of the college; and Newt Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism two years ago – eight years into his marriage to third wife, Callista Gingrich – spoke there on Nov. 21.
Buley said hosting the various candidates makes sense in light of the college's mission statement which is "Transforming the hearts and minds to serve the world."
"Allowing our students exposure to political discourse makes them able to have a more informed perspective on the world," said Buley.
She said the college would like to welcome all the candidates vying for the GOP nomination to the President's Circle forum prior to the January 10 New Hampshire Primary.