Reflections on inauguration and theme of hope Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

Dear Friends,

bishop column logoLike many of you, I’m certain, I’ve watched, with interest, the events which occurred just over one week ago.  Our country has witnessed a tremendously historic event with the inauguration of President Barack Obama — an event which speaks to the tremendous strides our country has made, even in my lifetime, in terms of racial equality.  Though it has become cliché to say over recent weeks, there were times when no one in my generation could have dreamed that we would “see the day.”

Although there are some very fundamental issues on which the new president and we as Catholics find strong disagreement (and, in fact, on the second day of administration President Obama singlehandedly revoked the Mexico City Policy, which will return millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to organizations for the promotion of abortion around the world), as I have said before, we have no reason, as Americans, to wish President Obama anything but the best.  Indeed, it is our duty as Catholics and Americans to pray for our president, that his administration is successful in bringing about good for our nation.

We must always have hope

After the events of the past week, there can be no doubt that a great many Americans found reasons in abundance to celebrate the new administration. There is an undeniable sense of hope and anticipation, of which the inauguration festivities were only a demonstration. And, as human beings we must always have hope!

In fact, this has been one of the key themes of the still relatively young pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. And, recognizing the tremendous need for hope, particularly in our country, hope was the very theme of our Holy Father’s recent apostolic visit to the United States.

The Holy Father’s visit and his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, serve to remind us that there is but one hope which will never leave us disappointed. We, as Christians, recognize that it is Christ Himself who is the hope which does not disappoint. It is Christ Himself who is the Hope in which we find our salvation.

A new presidential administration always brings a great deal of hope for us as Americans. And this new administration in particular brings with it a great deal of hope that more people will recognize the inequalities which still exist in this world and do something more to change them.  And each of us must continue working within our own communities to do continually better that which we have already begun.

Doing our part as a faith community

The faith community of our universal Church is included in this. Though through her works the Catholic Church will continue to be the largest charitable organization in the world, though we offer health care to more people than any other hospital system on the planet and educate more children than any other group world-wide, we must do more.  We must, and we can (“yes, we can”) if we but remember that which is the cause of OUR hope — Christ Jesus.

An equally interesting point for me over the past week has been to recognize Christ as our hope, especially in terms of what it means for us as a diocesan Church. In particular, as I look at the inauguration events and I look at our local Church, I am left in wonderment as I consider that on which we deem it appropriate to spend our money.

Worthy of sacrificial giving

Though the final price tag has not been established, current figures show that Americans spent nearly $160 million on a few days of presidential inauguration events.  Around $115 million of that came from taxes, but another $45 million was paid for by personal donors.  $45 million was given by men and women stepping forward, with gifts large and small, and saying, “I believe this hope is worth celebrating and I will give of my own money to celebrate it for a day.” These Americans recognized that signs, symbols, celebrations are worthy of even sacrificial giving.

Although, as I said above, the inauguration of President Obama is certainly something historic and monumental, I am amazed that with our economic situation $160 million, $45 million of it private, was spent on a few days of celebration. In particular, I am amazed when I consider this fact in light of our quest, as a diocesan Church, to collect much less for a cathedral church to be built for countless lifetimes of celebration.

The number of attendees at the inauguration and the provision of the needed security warranted a significant expense to be sure.  But surely signs, symbols, and celebration are to be highly valued in terms of dollars, beyond the presidential inauguration.

All of this said, I would reiterate that I am not at all opposed to the celebration which is due such an historic event as this inauguration.  Presidential inaugurations, and this one in particular, give Americans hope — which is reason enough to celebrate.  But, I ask, why then can’t we, as the community of hope, make provision to build, in the center of our diocese and in the center of Madison, a home for and a temple of that Hope which will never fail and which has come with salvation for all?  If signs, symbols, and celebration warrant sacrificial giving for a presidential inauguration, then why not for a cathedral, which is the sign and symbol of the celebration of our faith?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Praised be Jesus Christ!