Monday, January 19, 2009

Hail, Columbia... and Holy Communion

Sure, his pro-choice stance might've driven no shortage of hierarchs to correction during the campaign -- and still finds him barred from Communion in a handful of dioceses -- but even so, tomorrow's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will likewise make history for the nation's 70 million Catholics with the swearing-in of the first of the fold ever to take up the Vice-Presidency of these United States, the first to enter either of the executive's elected posts since a certain JFK blazed the trail.

To kick-off the week that, despite seven terms in the Senate, will see him moving into his first Washington home, Joe Biden went to Mass (and, yes, received the Eucharist) yesterday at the District's Jesuit parish -- a favorite worship-spot of the first Romish president:
Biden and his wife, Jill, sat in a pew reserved for him and his family toward the back of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and listened as the Rev. Larry Madden, S.J., delivered a sermon about God as a constant anchor and the promise of hope and change for those who believe.

Although Madden did not mention Biden's name, the presence of the vice president-elect was obvious in other ways.

Secret Service agents were discreetly stationed throughout the church, including either side of the altar. Toward the end of the 11:30 a.m. Mass, as one of the lectors urged those in attendance to welcome new members and visitors, some in the congregation laughed and then applauded, looking toward Biden. He eventually stood and acknowledged the response that included a standing ovation.

Among those at the service was Biden's former colleague, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a regular at Holy Trinity....

Kennedy worshipped at Holy Trinity during his time in Washington, and a plaque on the fence at the front of the church describes the 35th president. On the snowy morning of Jan. 20, 1961, Kennedy attended Mass there before his swearing-in.

During Sunday's service, the congregation was asked to pray for "wisdom and integrity" to guide the new president and his administration, a recognition of Tuesday's inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama and Biden.
For the record, the Bidens have quietly been "church-shopping" around the capital over recent weeks, attending Sunday Mass at various DC parishes in advance of their move to One Observatory Circle.

Hoping to spend as much time as possible at their Delaware home, however, the Second Couple are expected to remain Sunday regulars at their parish in Wilmington, St Joseph's on the Brandywine, where the incoming VP usually attends the 9am Mass... and always sits near the back.

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Given the confluence of the inauguration and Thursday's March for Life, much more to come on both as things progress. In the meantime, though, the most fitting starter for these days would yet again seem to be a house favorite: the "Prayer for the Nation and the Civil Authorities" written and first delivered in 1791 by John Carroll of Baltimore, a cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the nation's first bishop...
We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own Bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.
PHOTOS: AFP/Getty(1); AP/Carolyn Kaster(2)