The inauguration of Joe Biden, America’s 2nd Roman Catholic president, offers our broken nation a pathway to hope — On the Record
When the young John F. Kennedy ran for office in 1960, one of the greatest controversies of his campaign surrounded none other than his Catholic identity. “I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” he on the campaign trail to dispel any fears. “I am the Democratic Party candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic.”
Kennedy became America’s first Roman Catholic president, but on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden became the nation’s second- and very few are talking about it. After a tumultuous four years of fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric, the proceedings at the 59th presidential inauguration have shown how a Biden presidency- one led by a religious man- offers the opportunity to re-insert into politics a sentiment of faith- and with it, optimism and unity.
Then President-elect Biden began the morning by attending Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. alongside both Republican and Democratic colleagues . The attendance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was a sure nod to the tone of partisan collaboration Biden so often pleaded for during his campaign.
The inauguration ceremony itself featured many prominent participants who identify as Catholic, all of whom received the chance to highlight their faith in their own way. Father Leo O’Donovan, a Jesuit and former president of Georgetown University, delivered an inspiring invocation. Lady Gaga sang a heartfelt version of the national anthem. And Jennifer Lopez followed with her own arrangement of “This Land is Your Land” and “Amazing Grace,” yet another expression of faith amidst the present-day pain incited by the coronavirus pandemic, among other crises.
In his inaugural address , President Biden referenced St. Augustine, who said “a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” The new president asked us to “open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.” He cited a Bible passage that acknowledged how “we may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” He asked us to join him in silent prayer- and, referencing “American Anthem,” to “add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation.” None of his religious remarks threatened the unity of church and state. Rather, they served to demonstrate how one could leverage personal faith for the common good.
A devout Catholic man who used to frequent Georgetown’s own Dahlgren Chapel as Vice President, Joe Biden will be a president who reminds us how to love rather than hate. He will be a president who sees the best of us rather than the worst of us- who will unify rather than divide. Especially for someone who has experienced no shortage of personal tragedy, his spirit of hope and sincerity exemplify the optimism and goodness that all Americans hold in their hearts, even if not always exposed.
That very few attacked Joe Biden’s Roman Catholic identity during this past election cycle already shows that America is moving forward. A Biden presidency will undoubtedly continue to reinforce these themes of unity, all the while calling us to evaluate our own personal faith- and how we could use it for good.
Originally published at https://ontherecordgu.com on January 20, 2021.