At Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Friday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan read a prayer for a leader whose wisdom he has sometimes questioned.
In an interview last week with A Journey through NYC religions, the Catholic leader, who is archbishop of the New York Archdiocese, said that he had picked the 9th chapter of the Book of Wisdom as “the most fitting” for the inauguration of the new president.
The chapter is styled as a prayer of Solomon for wisdom when he became king of Israel. The prayer rhetorically asks, “Who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom and send your holy spirit from on high?”
The prayer comes from a book more honored by the Roman Catholic Church than by the Protestants. Written perhaps fifty years before the time of Jesus Christ, the Catholic church came to consider it as an additional part of the Old Testament while the Protestants do not include it in their Bible, though some refer to it as a source for understanding God’s wisdom. Perhaps, Dolan chose this particular passage to also emphasize that the Catholic Bible is firmly part of the American religious tradition.
During the run-up to the presidential election, the archbishop pointedly associated the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out during Trump campaign as a throw-back to the anti-Catholic movements in the 19th Century. On July 29, 2015, The New York Daily News published Dolan’s OpEd under the title “Nativism rears its big-haired head: Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric is a sad return to a terrible American tradition.”
The archbishop denounced what he called “the ugly phenomenon called nativism, defined by the scholar and author Ray Allen Billington as, ‘organized, white, Protestant antagonism toward the Catholic immigrant.’”
The rhetoric, Dolan noted, assumed an apocalyptic tone. Quoting New York City journalism professor Paul Moses, he noted that one group of anti-immigrants believed that “American society was doomed, as the foundation stone of Plymouth Rock eroded with the crash of each immigrant wave.”
Trump chose six clergy to deliver prayers and read scriptures during the inauguration. Like Dolan, two other clergy participants also have criticized Trump, his policies, or his supporters during the campaign. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez expressed opposition and “angst” about the anti-immigration rhetoric. His choice of Scripture, Matthew 5:3-11, 14-16 which he read at the inauguration, emphasized caring for the poor. He is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and senior pastor at New Season Christian Worship Center, an Assemblies of God congregation in Sacramento, Calif.
In offering a blessing on Trump and the country, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, quoted from Psalms 15:1-2 and 126:5. Last year, he had strongly denounced Trump’s idea of temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the United States.
Also delivering prayers or readings were: Paula White, pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, cited Proverbs 21 saying that leaders' hearts are in God's hands; Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, read 1 Timothy 2:1-6 to encourage people to pray; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International Church in Detroit prayed “Let us be healed by the power of your love, and united by the bond of your Spirit.” White and Jackson were supportive of Trump during the election campaign while Graham was avowedly neutral.
Trump followed up the prayers and readings by placing into the people's and God's hands his optimism about making America great again. In his inauguration speeck he said, "The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreement honestly but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable...And most importantly, we will be protected by God."
Dolan has known about Trump for a long time but says that he has only met the incoming president occasionally. On October 20th, the archbishop looked like a peacekeeper sitting between Trump and Hillary Clinton at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. Smith, governor of New York, ran for president and lost amidst warnings against “rum, Romanism, and rebellion,” a line penned by a New York City pastor.
Subsequently, another governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made it a point to invite the first Roman Catholic cleric to offer a prayer at his second inauguration as president in 1937. He chose Msgr. John Ryan, a pioneer of the church's social justice efforts.
Cardinal Dolan told Catholic News Service that he attended ceremonies as a private citizen for President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Another New York prelate, Cardinal Terrence J. Cooke, prayed at both of President Richard Nixon's inaugurations in 1969 and 1973. President Ronald Reagan was a friend and an admirer of Cooke’s successor, Cardinal John O’Connor.
The music at Trump’s inauguration also had a religious flavor: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, known for its music at several previous inaugurations, will sing in the ceremony.
Before the inauguration, Trump attended a private family church service at St John’s Episcopal Church near the White House, where many previous presidents have worshiped just before being sworn-in. Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a Trump supporter, compared incoming president to the prophet Nehemiah in a sermon titled “When God Chooses a Leader.” There was be a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The inaugural committee also planned a National Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral to be held today, Saturday. Geron Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America headquartered in New York City, will participate in the service. Trump has hand-written a prayer asking for God's blessing to be placed in the historic West Wall of Jerusalem.
New York City faith groups are also helping to organize the Woman’s March on Washington to take place on Saturday. A related march is planned in New York City that will simultaneously pass by Trump Tower.
SOLOMON’S PRAYER from The Book of Wisdom
God of my ancestors, Lord of mercy,
you who have made all things by your word
And in your wisdom have established humankind
to rule the creatures produced by you,
And to govern the world in holiness and righteousness,
and to render judgment in integrity of heart:
Give me Wisdom, the consort at your throne,
and do not reject me from among your children;
For I am your servant, the child of your maidservant,
a man weak and short-lived
and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.
Indeed, though one be perfect among mortals,
if Wisdom, who comes from you, be lacking,
that one will count for nothing.
You have chosen me king over your people
and magistrate over your sons and daughters.
You have bid me build a temple on your holy mountain
and an altar in the city that is your dwelling place,
a copy of the holy tabernacle which you had established from of old.
Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes
and what is conformable with your commands.
Send her forth from your holy heavens
and from your glorious throne dispatch her
That she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is pleasing to you.
For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me prudently in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory;
Thus my deeds will be acceptable,
and I will judge your people justly
and be worthy of my father’s throne.
For who knows God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the Lord intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and uncertain our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthly tent weighs down the mind with its many concerns.
Scarcely can we guess the things on earth,
and only with difficulty grasp what is at hand;
but things in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who can know your counsel, unless you give Wisdom
and send your holy spirit from on high?
Thus were the paths of those on earth made straight,
and people learned what pleases you,
and were saved by Wisdom.
The New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE)