Hawaii sends blessings for the new president

Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States Jan. 20 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS/pool via Reuters)

Barack Obama takes the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS/pool via Reuters)

The Hawaii Catholic Herald in Honolulu has posted “An Island blessing for our new president” based partly on the fact that President Obama is the first native son of the state to become president. Editor Patrick Downes explained to us that the prayer is meant for a Hawaiian audience, so some readers won’t understand all the references or words. Still, you may enjoy reading the litany of hopes and prayers from Hawaii for our new president.

Biden becomes first Catholic veep in U.S. history

Joseph R. Biden, with his wife, Jill, holding the Bible, takes the oath of office as he is sworn in as vice president of the United States. (CNS/Reuters)

Joseph R. Biden, with his wife, Jill, holding the Bible, takes the oath of office as vice president of the United States. (CNS/Reuters)

When the former Delaware senator, Joseph R. Biden, took the oath of office of the vice president of the United States at 11:55 this morning, he became the first Catholic to hold that office in the nation’s history. John F. Kennedy holds the distinction of being the first  — and only — Catholic president in history, but until today no other Catholic man or woman has achieved winning the second-highest office in the land.

A handful of others have tried.

The first Catholic to run for vice president was Edmund S. Muskie, former governor and sitting senator from Maine. He joined Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey’s campaign to succeed Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 election. Humphrey had been Johnson’s vice president and the campaign suffered from Johnson’s failed Vietnam War policies and the turmoil of the Great Society. The Democrats lost the election to Richard M. Nixon of California and Spiro T. Agnew, Maryland’s governor.

The election marked Nixon’s triumphant return to politics. His career had taken a bad tumble after his loss in 1960 to Kennedy, the only Catholic to be elected president. Muskie went on to serve as President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state.

The second Catholic to run on a major party ticket was Thomas F. Eagleton, who ran on the 1972 Democratic ticket headed by South Dakota Sen. George S. McGovern. Eagleton, a U.S. senator from Missouri, only ran for 18 days. He was forced off the ticket after revelations about his past hospitalizations for mental health problems surfaced. He was succeeded as the party’s vice presidential nominee by another Catholic, Robert Sargent Shriver of Maryland. A hugely popular political activist, Shriver was first head of the Peace Corps and an ambassador to France. McGovern and Shriver lost in one of the nation’s greatest landslide elections to Nixon and Agnew, who were seeking second terms. Interestingly, Shiver was the last presidential or vice presidential nominee not to have served as a governor or member of Congress prior to nomination.

The fourth Catholic to make it on a national ticket was Geraldine Ferraro, a representative from New York. In 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale achieved the Democratic nomination and asked Ferraro to be his running mate. She was the first woman and the first Italian American to run on a major party national ticket. Mondale and Ferraro were defeated by President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush, who were seeking re-election to a second term.

No other Catholic would nab a place on the national ticket until Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004.

What religious denomination has prevailed in the 44 runs for the vice presidency? Presbyterians top the list, with Episcopalians a close second.

Update: Peter Chila (below) is correct. New York Congressman William Miller ran for vice president on the 1964 ticket headed by Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. They were trounced by Johnson and Humphrey.

Interestingly, Miller hailed from the same state that gave America its first Catholic to run at the head of a national ticket. New York Gov. Al Smith was the Democratic nominee for president in 1928. He overwhelmingly carried the Catholic vote, but it wasn’t enough to defeat his opponent, Herbert Hoover, who won by a landslide.

Miller had the distinction of representing two New York districts in Congress, and he later went on to become chairman of the Republican Party. New York, of course, went on to contribute another Catholic candidate: Geraldine Ferraro.

Thank you, Mr. Chila.

On Inauguration Day, what is your prayer for the new administration and the country?

As I walked through the masses flooding the streets near the Washington monuments on Inauguration Day, I asked one question to the people I met: “What is your prayer for the country and the new administration?”

Considering most were dressed for the ski slopes and that so many who had trekked so far wouldn’t see anything more than lines and the back of other people’s heads all day, I thought many would turn the question inward and answer with prayers for warmth and a good spot on the mall.

But that wasn’t the case.

Pam Davis prayed for intelligence. She hoped that “smart comes back to America. We once were known for being very smart, being inventors … and now we are known for a whole different set of skills,” such as excessive weight, greed, cars and waste.

Miseah Reed from North Carolina prayed for leadership. “It’s hard to tell other countries to play nice if we don’t,” she said.

Sitting with her two young children on the ground near the Washington Monument, Karen Flowers from Georgia said she prayed for unity and that the country would rekindle its hope to work for “health, happiness, safety and security and that our children get a good education.”

Ben from Maryland, who preferred not to share his last name, prayed for understanding. People must realize Barack Obama “isn’t going to be a savior without us.”

“He can’t do it alone … we have to help him,” he said.

Ben’s friend from Philadelphia, who went just by Bill, prayed God would give Americans “patience.”

Valarie Williams said she prayed for diplomacy to solve problems “instead of war.”

And Lisa Chin from Atlanta simply prayed for “peace and equality.”

What are your prayers for the country and the new administration?

Observations from the Mall on Inauguration Day

Early in the morning Jan. 20 people wait in line prior to the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Early in the morning Jan. 20 people wait in line prior to the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

CNS reporter Chaz Muth called in, standing among a growing crowd of millions to give a live update from the National Mall on this historic Inauguration Day.

The Metro was packed, crammed with people.  Standing-room only as far as the eye could see.  As the doors of the Metro trains opened, people burst through them, a blast of bitter cold air meeting them.  The throng had to endure countless checkpoints and endless crowds as it made its way to the National Mall.

People looking toward the large television screens at times to catch glimpses of events, shivering and waving miniature American flags.

When President-elect Barack Obama appeared on the screen, the crowd went wild at first, then fell silent and listened intently as he spoke.

Dana Dickey, 43, Los Angeles, traveled here with her 12-year-old son, Devon Moreland, a seventh grader from Novel Middle School.  As the two shivered and watched the portable television screen near the Capitol, Dickey’s eyes filled with tears.

“When Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech for the nomination, it was one of those moments that told me I had to find a way to Washington for the Inauguration.  I wanted my son to experience history in the making,” she said.

Pope Benedict’s Inauguration Day telegram

A few hours before President-elect Obama’s inauguration Tuesday, the Vatican released this congratulatory telegram from Pope Benedict XVI:


The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

The White House

Washington, DC

On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-fourth president of the United States of America I offer cordial good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you unfailing wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high responsibilities. Under your leadership may the American people continue to find in their impressive religious and political heritage the spiritual values and ethical principles needed to cooperate in the building of a truly just and free society, marked by respect for the dignity, equality and rights of each of its members, especially the poor, the outcast and those who have no voice. At a time when so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world yearn for liberation from the scourge of poverty, hunger and violence, I pray that you will be confirmed in your resolve to promote understanding, cooperation and peace among the nations, so that all may share in the banquet of life which God wills to set for the whole human family (Isaiah 25:6-7). Upon you and your family, and upon all the American people, I willingly invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.

Benedictus PP.XVI