Wednesday, January 20, 2021



The Invocation at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden by Father Leo O’Donovan, SJ

My observations first: I have had to pray at ecumenical and interfaith gatherings. I believe that a Catholic can pray in a generic way that makes clear that the prayer is directed to God the Father, through His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, but saying it in a way that includes those who aren't Catholic or even Christian.

Father O'Donovan starts well (Gracious and merciful God) but then starts making a speech rather than praying a prayer, some of which is directed to the people rather than God. Big doctrinal mistake. 

Father also uses "Holy Mystery of Love" (a good way to say Jesus in code). 

Then he concludes with "To the Glory of your Name forever". I might have said, " and forever." But the Name of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and thus using your "Name" covers that.

Here's the prayer:

Gracious and merciful God, at this sacred time we come before you in need—indeed on our knees. But we come still more with hope, and with our eyes raised anew to the vision of a “more perfect union” in our land, a union of all our citizens to “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

We are a people of many races, creeds and colors, national backgrounds, cultures and styles—now far more numerous and on land much vaster than when Archbishop John Carroll wrote his prayer for the inauguration of George Washington 232 years ago.

Archbishop Carroll prayed that you, O Creator of all, would “assist with your 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 your people.”

Today, we confess our past failures to live according to our vision of equality, inclusion and freedom for all. Yet we resolutely commit still more now to renewing the vision.

There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us, a thrust of the spirit to cherish and care and stand by others, and above all those most in need. It is called love, and its path is to give ever more of itself.

Today, it is called American patriotism, born not of power and privilege but of care for the common good—“with malice toward none and with charity for all.”

For our new president, we beg of you the wisdom Solomon sought when he knelt before you and prayed for “an understanding heart so that I can govern your people and know the difference between right and wrong.”

Holy Mystery of Love, help us under our new President to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love.

We trust in the counsel of the Letter of James: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Pope Francis has reminded us “how important it is to dream together.... By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built Together.”

Be with us, Holy Mystery of Love, as we dream together. Help us under our new President to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love.

To the glory of your Name forever.




Daniel said...

The prayer -- like Joe's speech & like the rest of the event -- was classy, positive, inclusive & uplifting. A new & hopefully better tone going forward.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I watched it. I agree with you totally, Father. But I had read that Cdl. Wilton Gregory was doing the invocation...did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA...That priest giving his blessings to....more abortions.......unfettered illegal immigrants.....higher taxes......continued assault on the Little Sisters of the Poor......and a whole host of other self-destructive policies.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Daniel, oddly enough, no sooner had I posted this in my office, i went to my car to drive home to the rectory. My XM Sirius radio was on to one of the news stations and as soon as i got in the car, the commentator said, Father O’Donavan gave the best speech of the day.

And indeed, therein lies the problem. Prayer isn’t a speech. It is prayer. A fine speech it was, perhaps the best of the day, but it wasn’t entirely a prayer, it was mostly a speech.

Anonymous said...


You must have a very selective view of Biden who had to drop out of previous presidential runs for lying, plagiarism (media used to report these matters), and who defies Church teaching on abortion, gay marriage, and transgenderism. He has called Trump supporters domestic terrorists, and on the campaign trail (when he left his basement) he was pretty nasty to anyone who challenged him. You have an interesting notion of what is classy, positive, inclusive and uplifting.

ByzRus said...

If our Lord isn't clear on the timing of Abp. Carroll's written prayer for Geo. Washington's inauguration 232 years ago, he is now. Agree. Speech-like prayer. Fr. tried to cram in too much at the expense of the prayer itself. As a speech, it was nice, though.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen the point in Rorschach test prayers of "oh holy (fill-in-blank, IF anybody there at all), make us feel the LUHuuuv etc", dreck, as utterly devoid of concrete meaning and offensive to EVERY faith with concrete belief, as well as offensive even to atheists by praying at all.

And mostly their true object of worship is Man and his illusory brotherhood minus concrete and shared beliefs, while everything which divides is erased, leaving only empty feel-good fluff of no substance.

UK-Priest said...

Fr McD, you make the mistake in believing that anyone gives a damn about what you think!

As my grandmother used to say, if you don’t have anything good to say then don’t say anything.

Anonymous said...

See you next Tuesday!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

UK priest, obviously you disagree with your grandmother. Odd that you would condemn yourself by quoting her, God rest her soul. I can see why she said that to you.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, UK Priest, please, or folk may doubt your UKness and priestness at all. I know you are upset the prayer left out Earth Mother and Cosmic Burrito, but that was then and this is now. All things pass...even you.

Identity Poltischmucks said...

”Today, we confess our past failures to live according to our vision of equality, inclusion and freedom for all..."

I find these words troubling in a "prayer" (which, as Father correctly notes is far more "speechy" than prayerful) made at such an event, yet am not entirely surprised, as it seems custom made for the incoming regime.

It has now become "de rigueur" for all members of the Democratic party--especially WHITE members to remind America that it has failed. We must be reminded of our racist past and we are supposed to feel guilt, compunction and self-loathing for this sin, which--unlike Christianity--can never possibly be atoned for.

If that sounds sarcastic, it is. I have watched this dead horse being beaten since growing up in the 1960's and it is beyond getting old. It is an almost meaningless cliche. No one is denying that racism is a problem, but the healing will never begin so long as we insist on peeling off the scab every time we exhale so we can "celebrate the wound anew". And, as much as this should not be a partisan post, one cannot help but notice that this is the favorite "club" Democrats like to use to beat over the heads of their opponents. When you label others as racist, you are sticking a toxic label on someone that is difficult to remove, even when it is clearly not true. Finally, if you keep telling roughly half of our populace that they are racists and repeat the accusation at every turn--well, sooner or later there is going to be some serious backlash.

Then again, I suspect the opportunity such a backlash would create would not be lost on these folks.

SJ Follower said...

The prayer was a good one.

The errors the blog owner makes are:

1. What is a suitable prayer at the Presentation of the Gifts is not the same as what is suitable for a Presidential Inauguration or what is suitable for the Opening of the 61st Annual Rattlesnake Round Up in Whigham, Georgia. Different circumstances call for, nay, demand, different styles of prayer.

2. This was a civic event, not a Catholic event. To expect a Catholic prayer at a civic event in which a Catholic has been invited to offer an invocation is an expectation that is bound to lead to disappointment. That will come not from the prayer but from the misplaced expectation.

3. The blog owner doesn't get to decide what others say when asked to offer prayers at civic events.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

SJ lover, your comment isn't well thought out and neither was the prayer/speech. Even in a contemporaneous speech, I mean prayer, one is not trying to impress. Maybe it is best to stick to a "canned" Catholic prayer or even Anglican/Episcopal prayer for events like this.

His speech, I mean prayers, was a very poor imitation of evangelical preachers praying in public events like this and truly making a sermon out of it.

And yes, we can critique the errors in the formulation of a so-called prayer that becomes a speech/sermon to the congregation, I mean the fans at the inauguration.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

should be extemporaneous speech/prayer/sermonizing.

SJ Follower said...

I think the prayer was very well thought-out. And I didn't see it as an attempt to "impress" anyone. Maybe you are feeling a little out of your league listening to O'Donovan, a man of true faith and erudition.

Who makes you the judge what what you might call "errors in the formulation?" See, you're still thinking that, by some extraordinary act of the Powers That Be, you have been called to that task.

Get over it. You haven't.

It's one thing to say, "Not my taste" or "Not my style." It's entirely presumptuous to say "He made errors."

S.J. Non-follower said...

S.J. Follower,

Could you please try to remember that you are addressing a Catholic priest?

Lest we forget, attacking a priest falls under the sin of sacrilege.

You don't need to keep up that tone just to save face. We don't know who you are anyway!


Anonymous said...

SJ Follower, it was a well thought out politicaĺly correct spiel of zero concrete content and less than zero religious content, and is a perfect example of why folks are leaving your church in droves, leaving only the aged/dying as them too old to want to bother with trying to find a church or anything else which provides real answers and meets real needs.

Your church and politics are bankrupt failures, period. But keep on saying how wonderful it all is, and blame folk not being there on their being racists who have yet to "get over it". Tell your creator that at the judgement as well, as it will be just super interesting to watch, and looking forward to that day.

Anonymous said...

That speech was to prayer what McDonalds is to fine dining, being a well crafted effort into being the least offensive to the greatest number of people as possible, equalling a content of nil. If you liked that speech, it tells much about you, as well. Empty.

UK-Priest said...

Anon 1:59 - Why anyone draft and pronounce a prayer that was offensive to anyone, particularly on a day when the nation should be united?

The fact that you criticise the prayer used for not being divisive and offensive enough, says a lot about you, your motives and your extremism!

The days of alt-right Trump-Catholism in quasi schism are numbered. Roman Catholicism in communion with the Pope will prevail.

Daniel said...

I have heard many, many speeches masquerading as prayers, sermons or blessings. Many of them were dull, self-aggrandizing and poorly done. This was not. That's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

UK Priest -- in this MAGA country, references to equality, inclusion, justice, poverty, peace and fair treatment for immigrants are considered an affront to many conservative Catholics and must be censored so as not to offend.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Reciting the Gettysburg address to God as a prayer, isn't a prayer no matter how well it is read or delivered. That's the point of my post.

Tell it how it is! said...

Fr McD - the point of your post was nothing more than small minded sniping of minor non-significant details because you’re not big enough to set aside your partisan bias and say something constructive and positive about Biden’s inauguration... and everyone can see through your faux theological arguments. You are many things but a competent theologian or liturgies, you are not!

SJ Follower said...

Tell - There are no "theological arguments" in the Blog Owner's post.

As you note, it is an exprewssion of personal pique, and nothing more.

Tom Marcus said...

Father, as a layman, I want to apologize for the snotty tone taken by some of your critics here. We can all disagree sometimes, but they have no call making such curt, snide remarks and I am embarrassed for them.