Prayers for a Catholic president — our responsibility as faithful Catholics

For only the second time in its history, the United States of America will have a Catholic president. This is significant in a country whose revolution and founding were in part influenced by a desire to fight anti-Catholicism. President-elect Joseph Robinette Biden often cites his Catholic faith and recently quoted the popular “On Eagles’ Wings” hymn during his acceptance speech. As we watch his swearing-in and taking of the oath of office on Wednesday, there are a few things we owe to our new president.

First, we owe him our prayers. No position in the world comes with greater secular power than president of the United States. He will be responsible for decisions about policies that impact the lives of hundreds of millions domestically and billions of people around the world. The military capabilities of our country can be a great good in preserving peace in many places in the world, and America’s economic and social policies have ripple effects around the globe. All power comes with responsibility, and great power does all the more. Great wisdom, prudence and courage are needed to faithfully discharge the duties of this office.

Whether we voted for him or not, we have an obligation as faithful Catholics to pray that God gives President Biden the gifts he needs to be an excellent leader, reflecting in his words, actions and manner a sincere commitment to the common good and a particular concern for those who are most vulnerable. We pray that he holds fast to the truth of the Gospel, which he professes in reference to his Catholic faith. In offering these prayers, we are heeding St. Paul’s words to Timothy: “I ask you that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity” (1 Tm. 2:1-2).

We owe him support on matters that are in accord with our faith. While we will not always agree, we should readily look for opportunities to help him enact policies that align with our Christ-centered understanding of human flourishing. The scope of the federal government is vast, touching the lives of nearly every American. There are ways each of us can commit ourselves to supporting his work to improve the lives of our neighbors. This means that we, too, must use our gifts and talents to build up our society — making it more peaceful, just and kind.

This also requires us to give the president a reasonable benefit of the doubt. Because we have entrusted him with leading the executive branch of our country’s government, his success or failure will have consequences for many. Everything we can do in good conscience to help President Biden succeed — in accord with our Catholic values — we should readily do.

We owe him our steadfast commitment to our Catholic faith, including its rightful place in the public square. In more than one area, President-elect Biden has proposed plans directly at odds with fundamental truths that flow from a well-formed Catholic conscience. This means we owe him staunch opposition to policies that curtail the right to life of the preborn child, remove safeguards that protect children from the serious ills of gender reassignment, and handcuff religious organizations and other faith-conscious companies from operating according to their religious beliefs.

Our country cannot flourish without robust religious participation in civic life. The call for a “separation of church and state” is a call to prevent the Church from being hampered by the state, not a call for a radically secularized and godless civil society. Therefore, Catholics have an important role to play during the administration of a President Joe Biden. May we have the caritas in veritate — the charity in truth — to play this role faithfully.

A prayer for a Catholic president

Almighty Father,

With hearts of gratitude for the gifts you have bestowed upon our country from its founding until this day, we lift these words to you. In your divine providence, you have allowed us to have a president who is a member of your Holy Catholic Church. As he takes this responsibility, may he discharge it as an example for all Catholics, faithful to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and remembering that each of us will be called to give an account of our lives before this Lord at the end of our days.

Give to our president wisdom for the grave decisions he must face. Let him never be overwhelmed or weighed down by the demands of his office. Give your servant a listening heart to distinguish between good and evil. May his leadership always have a deep concern for the weakest, most vulnerable, and most forgotten in our country.

Fill him with prudence to know the right way forward for our country. Let him be faithful to the just promises he makes. Give him courage to compromise where it is needed and to be steadfast in defending all life, especially the innocent.

Transform our hearts to have a deep and abiding concern for the common good, caring more for others than for our own individual welfare. May we remember to pray for him often, support him as we are able, and never waver in boldly sharing our Catholic faith in the public square. May our political, economic and social spheres receive the leaven of the Gospel to more perfectly reflect your goodness. God, please protect, inspire, encourage and form our president. 

This we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Fr. Stephen Pullis is director of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.