With tomorrow’s inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, our nation will pause to consider his words. Amid the pomp and pageantry, we yearn to be inspired. Certain presidential inaugural addresses continue to ring in our ears, even though we may have only read them or watched them on news reels. Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy continue to move us with their words.
We hope that the words of our new president will inspire us. In light of the steep challenges before our nation and world, we need deep inspiration. Six ministers, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, will offer prayers and recitations. Whether President Trump or these ministers will read a poem, their words will undoubtedly be poetic to excite us about our current American mission to serve, heal, lead, protect, and care.
Dan Share, editor of Poetry Magazine, once wrote that poetry “gets us to focus our attention and sharpen our critical skills, things we need more than ever in an age, like ours, of distraction.” With his poetic last name, this writer clarifies a fine insight. We do live in a time of vast distraction, pulled from the real needs of our lives, families, communities, church, nation, and world. We seek greater focus and sharpened critical skills to address the difficulties before us.
As faithful disciples, we are familiar with turning to prayer. At every mass in the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray for our pope and local bishop, an ancient tradition indeed. We also need to pray for our civic leaders with similar fervor and regularity.
Might we also consider turning to poetry and consider a poem a day? St. Francis de Sales, an indefatigable writer whose feast day we celebrate on Tuesday, authored books, pamphlets, conferences, sermons, and thousands of letters of spiritual direction to his parishioners. His use of images, frequently taken from nature, science, literature, and the beautiful vistas throughout Annecy, France, where he lived and worked, has turned his writings into classics and introduced a rich poetry to his prose.
May we turn to prayer and poetry to lift our hearts and souls and spirits to soar with fresh energy as we are led by a new team.
The Gift Outright
By Robert Frost
(read at President Kennedy’s Inauguration)
The land was ours before we were the land’s
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she will become.