Liturgical Resources for a Presidential Inauguration

Theinauguration of a public official is normally a civic function, at which representatives of various religious traditions may be invited to offer public prayers.

St. Paul writes, "I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:1–2). It is, therefore, appropriate to offer prayers in liturgical settings for our civic leaders, as the prayers of the needs of the faithful and the world are lifted up and offered to the Lord. The inauguration of the President of the United States is a particularly significant moment which draws the attention of all citizens of our land. It is fitting that the prayer of the Church, particularly gathered at the Eucharist, be attuned to the occasion.

Mass Formularies

January 20, Inauguration Day, is usually observed as a weekday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, as well as the optional memorial of Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and of St. Sebastian, Martyr.

In addition, Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions chosen by the Priest Celebrant in favor of the devotion of the people are permitted on this day. In particular, the following formularies might be considered: #21: For the Nation or State; #22: For Those in Public Office; #24: For the Head of State or Ruler; #29: For the Progress of Peoples; #30: For the Preservation of Peace and Justice.

The Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions III ("Jesus, the Way to the Father") could also be used with the above formularies.

Sample Intercessions for the Universal Prayer

"In the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in some sense to the Word of God which they have received in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal Priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is desirable that there usually be such a form of prayer in Masses celebrated with the people, so that petitions may be offered for holy Church, for those who govern with authority over us, for those weighed down by various needs, for all humanity, and for the salvation of the whole world" (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 69).

Selections from the following could be included among the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful at Sunday and weekday Masses before Inauguration Day and on the day itself:

For the nations of the world, to engage in a cooperative spirit toward lasting peace and justice for all, we pray to the Lord...

For our nation, to continue to promote liberty and freedom, justice and peace for all, we pray to the Lord...

For the people of the United States, to engage in a spirit of cooperation, tranquility, and respect for one another and for all human life as good stewards of the gifts God has given us, we pray to the Lord…

For our (new) President, to have before him/her at all times the charge to protect and defend the rights of all citizens, especially the weakest and most vulnerable among us, we pray to the Lord...

For all civic authorities, entrusted with care for the common good, to act with loving care in all they do, we pray to the Lord...

For the Church and its leaders, to serve as beacons of the light of Christ in a world in the shadows of fear, violence, poverty, and death, we pray to the Lord…

Prayer on the Occasion of the Inauguration of a Public Official

This prayer, from the U.S. edition of the Book of Blessings (no. 1965), is an adaptation of the prayer for the Church and for civil authorities which was composed by Archbishop John Carroll for use on the occasion of the inauguration of George Washington in 1789. This prayer, or particular sections of it, especially section 2, could be used at gatherings for prayer outside Mass. Within Mass, it could be used at the conclusion of the Universal Prayer.

  1. Almighty and eternal God,
    you have revealed your glory to all nations.
    God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
    through you authority is rightly administered,
    laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.

  2. For the President:
    Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
    the President of these United States,
    that his/her administration may be conducted in righteousness,
    and be eminently useful to your people over whom he/she presides.
    May he/she encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
    May he/she execute the laws with justice and mercy.
    May he/she seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.

  3. For the members of Congress:
    Let the light of your divine wisdom
    direct the deliberations of Congress, (and especially of N.,)
    and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed
    for our rule and government.
    May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness,
    and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality.

  4. For state and local officials:
    We pray for N., the governor of this state (commonwealth, dominion),
    for the members of the legislature, (especially, N.,)
    for judges, elected civil officials, (especially, N.,)
    and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare.
    May they be enabled, by your powerful protection,
    to discharge their duties with honesty and ability.

  5. We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy
    all citizens of the United States,
    that we be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.
    May we be preserved in union and that peace which the world cannot give;
    and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
    be admitted to those which are eternal.

    We pray to you, who are Lord and God,
    for ever and ever.

    R/. Amen.