It is a remarkable thing to ponder, America’s peaceful transition of power. When I walked onto the Mall early Friday morning, Barack Obama was president of the United States. When I walked off a few hours later, Donald Trump was president. What happened in the intervening hours—the praying of prayers, the singing of songs, and the taking of an oath—centered not on a particular man but on an office. Its occupants change, but the office of the American president remains the same: an office of power and authority that cannot help but make – or, sometimes, remake – its occupant, regardless of party, or ideology, or temperament.
Presidential inaugurations are spectacles, and yesterday was no different. Amid the bands and parades, the left and the right of our country each got its say on the rostrum, as is proper. The people on the ground had their say, too, in the quieter, less spectacular way of casual conversation between strangers who discover a few (or many) shared values, anchored by a desire to see the nation flourish.
All around me, there were conversations about Donald Trump, the man, but there was also talk – and it was a deeper talk — about expectations of what he could realistically achieve, and what might have to be tabled, or rethought. The folks around me — from Utah, Mississippi, and elsewhere – talked freely about their families, their jobs, and their communities, and what they were seeking when they voted Mr. Trump into the White House. They hoped to establish a reordering of priorities which they believe will guarantee that America flourishes at every level, including the most local level possible.
There was joy in the voices that I heard around me on the Mall, but there was uncertainty, too. No one could predict exactly what the new president will do, or how the policies he advocates will affect the life of the nation. Still, the sense of hope predominated – the kind of hope that inspires prayer. At the inaugural ceremony we prayed together for the new president, as is fitting for every president.
Since St. Paul wrote to Timothy, the Church has encouraged her children to pray for their political leaders (1 Tm 2:1–2). The liturgy even contains a Mass for presidents and kings. I intend to pray its collect over the next several days, for President Trump and his administration. I encourage you to join me, perhaps as a novena. If you are not compelled to pray for the success of the president’s politics, then at least pray for the success of his office, that Mr. Trump’s governance of our common life might help us, as individuals and as a nation, to achieve the peace and security necessary to grow in truth and grace.
O God, to whom every human power is subject,
grant to your servant our president, Donald Trump,
success in the exercise of his high office,
so that, always revering you and striving to please you,
he may constantly secure and preserve
for the people entrusted to his care
the freedom that comes from civil peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.