[Editor’s note: this reconstruction of Father Matthew’s homily was taken from his handwritten notes. Unfortunately, you cannot hear the passion with which he spoke, and I know there were parts of his homily which were not in his notes. I have tried to capture the essence of his homily, which garnered a round of applause at daily Mass.]
220 years ago today, George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States. At Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City, he delivered his first Inaugural Address.
He began by saying, “…no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order…I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love…the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not by overwhelm with despondence one who ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”
He went on to say that “…no people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency…”
He continued, “…there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness…[and] the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…”
We see in George Washington a reverence for America and his role of leadership, great humility before his office, a commitment to virtue in governance, high regard for virtuous and moral leadership, and, above all, a great love and devotion to God.
The historian David McCullough recalled that during his Inaugural Address, Washington’s hands trembled and he spoke in a low and quavering voice.
We are told that Representative Fisher Ames from Massachusetts sat “entranced” as he spoke. The French Diplomat Louis Guillaume Otto said that “real merit and faithful virtue must be at the basis” [of Washington’s conviction and the shared support of the whole government].
One hundred days ago today, another man took office. On the anniversary of 100 days in office, it is customary to assess and raise questions of effectiveness and popularity of each new president.
As Catholics, we raise different questions, questions of morality and virtue. How has the president lived virtuously? Do we see the moral ideals and single-minded virtue of George Washington in our government today?
The evidence suggests otherwise:
Our president’s campaign promise to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” as soon as possible, his support of and alliance with Planned Parenthood, the reversal of the Mexico City Policy, the reversal of the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, the nomination of so-called “Catholic” politicians who do not support the Church’s teaching on the dignity of life, and the exploitation of the unfortunate division within the Church…the division between our bishops and our universities…the division among “Catholic” politicians.
The Church is enduring a new kind of persecution…
I daresay that before too long our Catholic schools and hospitals might very well cease to exist.
As we mark the customary 100 days of this president, we mourn 100 days of .
We are coming loose from our foundations – both our historical and moral foundations. Unless we recover our roots and our values, the values George Washington knew and understood, the values Pope Pius V believed in, and the values of our Church, heaven’s smiles will not fall upon us.
In this Easter Season, we celebrate the new and abundant life we have received in Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. We also mourn 100 days of . We pray and speak out in defense of the voiceless. We dedicate ourselves to a 100% absolute commitment to human life.
In Christ, who is our life, we must conquer, not for ourselves, but for Him and for those who have no voice. May the Lord of Life be forever praised!