Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vice at Mass

And there you have it, folks -- Joe Biden, American Catholic, the 47th Vice-President of the United States.

While the new First Families came together for a private service this morning in the traditional venue of St John's Episcopal near the White House, word around Washington says that the first of the fold to enter the nation's second office had already begun his Inauguration Day prayers some hours before with what he's previously called his "time alone," quietly attending an early Mass at Georgetown University.

The pre-Oath Eucharist echoes the act of the only other American Catholic ever to assume national office: hours before his swearing-in on 20 January 1961, President-elect John F. Kennedy attended a morning liturgy at Holy Trinity, the capital's Jesuit parish, where Biden and his family went to Mass on Sunday.

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While the papal nuncio to Washington Archbishop Pietro Sambi attended the ceremonies on the Capitol's West Front and DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl will offer a prayer for the nation at tomorrow's ecumenical service in the city's National Cathedral, the lone Catholic cleric heard from today was the chaplain of the House of Representatives -- Fr Daniel Coughlin of the archdiocese of Chicago -- who offered the closing benediction at the post-inaugural lunch in Statuary Hall.

Here's Coughlin's prayer as delivered:
Let us pray.

Lord God of history,
we have been blessed to witness the meteoric rise of President Obama,
the long, faith-filled journey of African-Americans,
the vibrant hopes of a nation catapulting into new directions.

Lord God of the present moment,
we are blessed, as free people
to see your hand in the peaceful transfer of power,
and your guidance in the affairs of state.
May we be attentive to your word and reach our full potential,
with equal justice for all,
compassion for the least,
and self-discipline to achieve lofty goals.

Lord God,
be with us into the future,
bless us by shaping a changing world into a more stable one
where all peoples and all nations will live in peace.
Protect and guide with creative touch President Obama and Vice President Biden, their families, and all in public service.
May each day be filled with peace and satisfaction
because they are about building your reign here on earth.

This we pray today, tomorrow and forever.

The first priest to serve as cleric-on-duty to the lower house of Congress, Coughlin was named to the chaplain's post in 2000 by the then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican.

PHOTO: AP/Elise Amendola