by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv
Bishop-President, Pax Christi USA

Together with a prayer of thanksgiving, I will breathe a deep sigh of relief at noon on this inauguration day. For a nation that prides itself on the peaceful transition of power as one political party hands the reins of government to another, this particular transfer of power will not be forgotten because its peacefulness was threatened and severely challenged. Just like the Senate confirming the vote of the Electoral College, today’s inauguration will be much more than a solemn ritual of our civil religion because it can no longer be taken for granted. The celebration will not be diminished one bit by the absence of the outgoing president who has repeatedly shown his disdain for the traditions of our democratic republic and who has quite literally taken his toys and gone home.

The sigh of relief and prayers of thanksgiving I raise up today are not because we will see the fulfillment of God’s reign as Joe Biden swears an oath on the Bible, but because as he does so, he knows something of the content of that written portion of God’s Word and he has chosen to live his life as a follower of the Word made flesh. Conscious of his imperfections and unlike his predecessor, he can certainly recall occasions when he has needed to ask God’s forgiveness. He has even known the need to repent of a wrong-headed policy position and has changed course when the evidence convinced him that he must. Biden has also known what it is to give decades of his life in service to the nation; he has known what it is to struggle with and walk with workers and the ordinary people who make this country great. He has known what it is to lose people precious to him and wonder how it will be possible to continue onward, and so he is able to empathize with a nation and world grieving the loss of life in the midst of a pandemic. He and his family have paid the price of patriotism and know that life laid down in service of a greater good instead of personal gain is in no way a loss.

At noon today we regain a national leader who models civility, who embodies decency, who exhibits compassion, who knows the power of words to heal, who can strive to include those whose views and priorities differ from his own, and who lives his life by noble principles. Those qualities, while never easy to perfect, were not considered impossible standards for ordinary citizens, much less for one who holds the highest office in the nation. But again, their absence helps us see their importance and their value.

My sigh of relief and prayer of thanksgiving are because, as of today, wearing a mask to protect one’s self and others from a dangerous virus doesn’t have to be interpreted as a political gesture but will be the expectation throughout the country. I give thanks because as of today, people will no longer be refused entrance to the United States of America merely because they come from a Muslim nation. I am grateful that the leader of our nation as of today will take responsibility for the health and well-being of the people in this time of global pandemic and will care whether the vaccine is reaching the people it should reach and will do what he can to prevent people from becoming homeless during this crisis. As of today, states should not have to compete with each other for the tools to fight the virus nor figure everything out for themselves without the help of the federal government, because from today that government will be focused on combatting the virus rather than holding on to power.

As of today, the United States of America will take its place in the community of nations, we will participate in the World Health Organization and pay attention to our allies.  We will once again take seriously the threat of global climate change, re-enter the Paris Climate Accord and begin again to reduce our carbon emissions and protect our air, land and water.  Beginning today, refugees can once again hope for the possibility of coming to and helping build up the land of opportunity.  Young people brought to this country as children without documents will be able to continue to work and study and contribute to the greatness of this country without living in constant fear for their futures.  Today the descendant of Irish immigrants of another century will remind our country of the long overdue need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Today the hard-working people who have been on the front lines and deemed essential will know that someone will be looking out for their interests. Today the people who contribute to the diversity that make our nation beautiful will know that their dignity will be recognized by the highest office-holder in the land and that those who promote racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and all kinds of hatred will not be given a pass when they animate our worst demons.

As Joe Biden places his hand on a Bible today, he does so as one who knows and strives to live by its greatest commandments and one who believes that he will be held to account for what he does and will do to the least of Jesus’s brothers and sisters.

As I breathe a sigh of relief and lift up a prayer, for today, I will not focus on the new president’s shortcomings because I know there will be plenty to disagree about and work to change as his term unfolds. Today I give thanks that a person of decency, morals and character will inhabit the White House once again, and I am proud that he is a Catholic and has been formed by the values of our faith.

25 thoughts on “On this day, I give thanks: An Inauguration Day reflection from Pax Christi USA’s Bishop-President

  1. Words of wisdom and hopefullness. So grateful that we have religious leaders to inspire and lead us to love one another.

  2. I share the optimism voiced by Bishop Stowe, the hope for the new administration. At the same time I find the moral disconnect with extremist ideologies and persons profoundly troubling. Within the Church, no less, we have “splinter groups” who’re profoundly anti-Francis and truth be known anti-Christian. “Church Militant” for one. We need to be on our spiritual guards, because the 70+ million voters who didn’t elect this president won’t disappear, and they do seem to live in an alternate reality, believing the election actually was stolen when it wasn’t. The Serenity prayer comes quickly to mind. Happy New Year 2021 everyone!

    1. At the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels – Ironside, Alabama where EWTN broadcasts Daily Mass, not a word was mentioned of Joe Biden nor his inaugeration. Really sad when the 46th. President of the U.S. is a Catholic.

      1. Really not a surprise to hear given that EWTN has had its wagon hitched to the GOP for a very long time now. I say this as one who also was in the GOP for a long time but who, during the run up to the 2016 election finally couldn’t take it anymore and left never to return.

  3. A prayerful and wise reflection on today’s change in government. May we find ways to work with the new president to further peace and justice.

  4. Thank you Bishop Stowe for your words of healing, hope and courage. May we move forward in peace, love and acceptance of each other.

  5. Thank you, Bishop Stowe, for words of encouragement on this day. I look forward to a new day, a new atmosphere, respect. Of course there will be difficulties and we have much to repair, but with a president who values all we have a much greater possibility of change and healing.

  6. Thank you, Bishop Stowe. It is a good day, filled with hope that we will begin again to seek truth and to pursue just peace

  7. Very disappointing to see such an overtly partisan viewpoint override the work of this great organization. Partisan takes like this (from both the left and right) are unhelpful, unwise and do damage to the witness of the Pax Christi organization, to the Church and all followers of Christ.

  8. I am sure that your words, Bishop Stowe, echo the sentiments of many an American and global citizens as well. May we be thankful when we see wrongs set right, try to fully understand and forgive when decisions may not go our way, and be ready to join with those we have disagreed with in order to form new realities drawing upon ours and others’ wisdom together. Thank you, Bishop Stowe, for your leadership and may we be able to live the words and ideas of Pope Francis.

  9. Grateful for the bishop’s wise and encouraging words. The president needs all Americans to help work toward a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for all.

  10. Thank you Bishop Stowe for your love of your people. Wish your priest would follow your example.

  11. For a president to begin his inauguration day with Mass – and welcoming those who may disagree with him to join him in prayer gives me great hope. It is a new day – one filled with hope. Thanks my Franciscan brother Bishop John for your leadership in welcoming our second Catholic president.

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful leadership and courage, Bishop John. I too am hopeful that our common human values will promote healing and mercy in a world so desperately in need of both.

  13. I shed tears of relief watching the inauguration feeling the passing of a dark night. I had tears of hope for a new day of greater compassion for the immigrants I worked with for over a quarter century. I had tears of joy for a vision holding forth the possiblity of leadership bringing us closer together for the common good.

  14. Thank you for this inspiring reflection. I, too, pray in relief and thanksgiving. Thank you as a bishop for speaking truth.

  15. Praise God we finally have the government we deserve after the 60+ million Americans who have lost their tiny lives at the hands of those who continue in silence at the denial of their humanity. Maria, ora pro nobis.

  16. Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever!

    I am curious if you gave the same ringing endorsement of the previous administration when they were sworn in thereby ending an 8 year reign of anti Christian and pro death tyranny.
    Ask yourself how many infants will die under this new reign of terror? He has already cost Americans an estimated 1 million jobs in fracking and the keystone pipeline in his first day in office.
    He promises to continue the attack on the Little Sisters of the Poor. I can not see what you see. Shame on you for supporting this antiCatholic regime.

    1. Sarkis,

      Exactly. And one of Biden’s latest actions is military intervention in Syria. How in the world can Stowe and a group titled the peace of Christ condone and praise this guy? How is this not clear confirmation of people putting politics over the Faith? The silence by them on this is deafening. Why no press release condemning it?

  17. While so much is refreshing with the new administration, people have to realize that all is certainly not perfect. As we strive to live the words and ideals of Christ under the guidance of Pope Francis, we must stand ready to peacefully confront decisions and actions which run contrary to Jesus’ teachings and His example. Military interventions, funding nuclear weaponry, supporting organizations providing abortions, etc. certainly need to be opposed, in my opinion. Though we may have some differences of opinions, may we conscientiously maintain communication, respect and remember that none of us is perfect. Who of us is able to render final, error-free judgments? Let us follow Jesus’ teachings and His example with love and humility.

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