Cardinal Dolan’s prayer for Trump applies across the United States
By Glen Argan
As I reflected upon Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s paraphrase of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in Wisdom 9.1-11 at Donald Trump’s inauguration, I realized more and more how important those words are.
Within two days of being sworn in, the new president of the United States was declaring war on the media because of the riveting issue of the crowd count at the inauguration, and massive demonstrations were held by women across the United States and in other nations.
I applaud those protesters for standing up to a leader who treats women like trash. However, I also see a nation in the first stage of unravelling, of possibly moving towards another civil war.
Trump did not start the culture wars of the last few decades, but his presence may be the catalyst for turning that war into something violent and destructive of a nation.
Time will tell, of course. But lines are hardening and if the president chooses to use his massive power against freedom of speech – against the media and against peaceful protesters –the result could be an inferno. Protesters too bear responsibility for their actions, and if those actions turn violent, civil war could result.
A nation’s leaders should be held to the highest moral standards. So too should demonstrators, but they will always be a mix of people with high motives and those ready to pick a fight.
Solomon in his prayer asked God to “give me the wisdom that sits by your throne.” Cardinal Dolan changed the pronoun throughout the prayer from me, not to him (referring to Trump), but to “us,” to the whole nation, including the president.
Cardinal Dolan can be a funny man, but on this occasion, he spoke with utter seriousness and, through the words of Solomon, offered needed to be heard.
Wisdom is now the greatest need in the United States, and it should now be the aspiration of all the people. It is hard to find wisdom within when you’re dealing with a thin-skinned bully of a president who doesn’t listen. The instinct of fallen humanity is to react in kind; one “speech” I heard from the Washington women’s rally was so far from wise that it made Trump seem like Solomon in comparison.
When a person is asked to speak on a public stage about political issues for the first time, it may seem to them that they and their opinions are at the centre. Not true. The common good must always come first.
A prerequisite for speaking about the common good is humility. Ego must be put aside. Violence must not even be considered.
The U.S. bishops may have a greater role in the weeks, months and years ahead than anyone, including myself, anticipated. The Catholic Church is not only the largest religious institution in the United States, it is also the most organized.
The role the bishops play will be important if it is both prophetic and perceived as non-partisan. It will have to be wise and, as Cardinal Dolan did, call others to wisdom. They should no longer be fighters in the culture war as that war is nearing the point of explosion.
As Archbishop Luis Martinez of Mexico City wrote in his 1957 book The Sanctifier, “The gift of wisdom gives to our souls the power to experience divine things, to taste them in the depths of our being, and, by that pleasure and experience, to judge all things.”
The experience of divine things? That experience is rare, even in the United States, which claims to be one nation under God. Normally, “divine things” only enter politics when some demagogue is manipulating religion for his ulterior motives.
The problems of societies, especially contemporary Western society, are intractable unless whole populations turn with their hearts and minds to that which is divine. May the U.S. president and the U.S. people be blessed with such wisdom in the days to come.