Over the years, prayer has always been a central part of the inaugural ceremonies. Clergy of all faiths have been invited to offer invocations.
In 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as our nation's first president. Since 1937, Inauguration Day has taken place on Jan. 20. When the 20th falls on a Sunday, the newly elected president takes the oath in a private ceremony at noon and, the following day, repeats the oath in a public ceremony. Since the inauguration of John Adams in 1797, the "Oath of Office" has usually been administered by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And so it is, this coming Friday at 12 noon, as Chief Justice Roberts administers the Oath of Office, our nation will once again, peacefully transfer the power of leadership from Barack Obama to Donald Trump.
Over the years, prayer has always been a central part of the inaugural ceremonies. Clergy of all faiths have been invited to offer invocations. Often in our lifetime, Rev. Billy Graham was called to lead prayer, quoting liberally from Sacred Scripture, for example in 1989: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Ps. 127). Many, if not all, of the clergy recalled our history as enshrined in some of our most sacred documents, for example: "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
I do not know anyone who has not been dismayed by the election cycle we are now concluding. Wherever one stands on the political spectrum, it seems to me it is crucial we step back and listen to the prayers offered in the past and on Friday. It is essential that we do so because these men and women of faith will call to God asking blessings on those assuming office and on each of us, that we not lose sight of who we are as a people, our origins as a nation, fundamentally diverse and committed to respect the value and dignity of all life.
We will be reminded that each and every effort of any and all political leaders will ultimately be futile unless they incorporate the noble values of our founders: the rights and privileges we possess are God given.
In all of the prayers I have heard and read, I appreciate deeply the call to all citizens to recognize our blessings as a nation, to come together with humility and gratitude to God, and work in unity to fulfill the greatness of our mission as a nation.
And is it not the case when all is said and done, and the highest and most eloquent speeches are delivered, accolades showered and honors offered, that we are nothing more than very frail persons, entirely dependent on our Creator God?
We all pray for the success of our new President, Donald Trump, and his administration. We pray that our greatest achievements are ahead of us. And finally, we pray we become ever more, "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Father James Ronan is pastor of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena parish in Charlestown, Massachusetts