On Inauguration Day 2021, our new President Joseph R. Biden began the day by attending Mass with the leaders of both parties. Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, and the Bidens, entered into the presence of Jesus together, to start this presidency off with God first. Unfortunately, many Christians immediate instinct was to detract Biden, to speak out against him and worse, to discredit this event completely because of what they believe about him. Those who read me know that I vehemently disagree with the narrative that Biden supports abortion and that that makes him not really Catholic. However, even if that was true, to discredit the power of starting a presidency with Mass, is tragic to me for several reasons.
When America was first founded, the Catholics were too much like what the pilgrims wanted to escape. We were relegated to the colony of Maryland. As time went on, Catholics were discriminated against in a myriad of ways, Irish Catholics were indentured servants, and treated terribly, Catholics were rarely in political positions, and more. In fact, media and people mocked our only other Catholic for his faith, and it was a reason that people should not vote for him. This year, not only did we elect a Catholic president without ever arguing that he was a bad candidate because he was Catholic, but we accepted his Catholicism, and it seems, perhaps, even embraced it. That should be a sign of hope.
The objection I have confronted to this is that he isn’t really Catholic so it doesn’t count. This is problematic on so many levels, but rather than defend whether or not he is really Catholic, I’d like to point out that the non-Catholics do not get that. They do not pick and choose which Catholics are “real” Catholics and which ones aren’t. In fact, I’m not sure they would even understand the argument that he is automatically excluded even if he considers himself a Catholic.
Most importantly though, more than the recognition of what this means for our country’s growth, is what it means for our future. Even if Joe Biden was not really Catholic, and in complete mortal sin, on the path to Hell,(which obviously I don’t know, but I don’t believe, but that’s a side tangent) even if that was the case, we believe that there is infinite power and grace in the Eucharist. We also believe that God will accept even the slightest bit of openness to enter into someone’s heart(not that mortal sin doesn’t matter, but He can still bring actual grace to the person, they are not filled with sanctifying grace.) To not only begin his time in the White House with God, but to invite the leaders of both parties into the power and love present in Him, is a level of openness to God in a way I have never seen in our country. It shows humility, because it shows that he needs God’s help in what he is about to do, and it shows courage and love that he invited others into that humility and tenderness with him. That should be celebrated.
I believe that God will use that moment of openness in the presence of the Eucharist to work an abundance of good in our country. I don’t believe He would look at that moment and say that because Biden is not perfect, this courageous and humble act is meaningless. I believe even if none of them are perfect, which none of us are, He would draw them close, and be gentle with them, just as we know He is with us.