Joe Biden’s Inauguration: Lessons of Faith and Leadership with Fr. Nono

From regularly attending Sunday Mass despite his hectic schedule, to including quotes from Scripture in his speeches, being and living Catholic is part and parcel of newly sworn-in United States President Joe Biden’s identity.

Known for wearing his late son Beau’s rosary on his wrist, Biden openly spoke about the integral role of faith in his life, as he bravely campaigned as the candidate battling to “restore the soul of America”, who eventually would emerge victorious in the 2020 elections.

As the 46th President of the world’s preeminent democracy faces the unenviable task of mending a divided nation amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, JesCom Executive Director Fr. Nono Alfonso SJ explained that it is authentic, servant leadership that provides Biden the clearest path towards success.

“Our Catholic faith and the Gospels teach us leadership, power, and authority are all about service. Jesus said, the first shall be last and shall serve the rest. He led by example.”

“All these should mark the leadership of one who follows Jesus Christ. He should lead by serving with utmost sincerity and love, and by humble example,” he added.

Vowing to stand for decency, morality and integrity during his journey to Oval Office, among Biden’s closest friends and mentors are in fact, Jesuits. Santa Clara University President, Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, serves as spiritual adviser to Biden and his wife, Jill. Former Georgetown University President Fr. Leo J. O’Donovan, SJ, did the honor of offering the invocation at Biden’s momentous inauguration ceremony last January 20.

Meanwhile for Fr. Nono, the oldest president in US history’s engaging and edifying personality already represents notable Ignatian virtues.

“To be president at 78, that can pass off as the Ignatian virtue of Magis. I am sure he would rather retire and enjoy old age, but he felt called to do what is best for the common good. That is Magis.”

“He is sincere, loving, respectful- and this is borne out of all the trials he has gone through his life–tragic loss of family members, near-death experiences. We call that discreta caritas in the Society of Jesus, discerning love, that is, loving appropriately, justly, respectfully,” Fr. Nono continued.

While Biden’s historic inauguration marked a promising, new chapter in the lives of millions of Americans, it was the remarkable delivery of “The Hill We Climb” by National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, that left the entire world in amazement.

“In this critical time, we are challenged to become the light that our Lord tells us we are- ‘You are the light of the world.’ But I like how Amanda qualifies that, ‘To be light, however, we need to be brave. We need to muster courage therefore before we can be light’,” reflected Fr. Nono on the 22-year old’s brilliant poem.  

“For us Christians, that courage can only come from our faith. This time of the pandemic therefore is a time of prayer. A time of going back to the basics. the basics of love for God, our neighbor, our world. the basics of our faith.”

Inspired by the youthful poet’s words, while recalling how his late mother would sing the American civil rights movement anthem “We Shall Overcome” in the toughest of moments, Fr. Nono then shared his own message of hope to begin the year.

“For as long as we help one another, for as long as we unite rather than divide, we will win over this pandemic. Second, we must realize we are never alone. Our deep faith that God is present in our midst and despite this darkness will carry us through this pandemic. We shall overcome.” 

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