(October 2, 2020)
On the evening of October 1, 2020, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that Melania and he tested positive for the coronavirus. White House Advisor Hope Hicks tested positive earlier, prompting the presidential couple to also be tested as a precaution.
Several thoughts went through my mind, shared by many people:
- “Yes, Trump caught coronavirus and will die from it!”
- “No longer will we have a racist and fascist president!”
- “That’s what Trump gets for his delayed reaction to combatting the pandemic, resulting in over 200,000 deaths in the US!”
However, I recalled that first and foremost I am a follower of Jesus, who teaches us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us (cf. Matthew 5:44).
Therefore, I pushed aside those thoughts in place of putting on the mind of Christ (cf. Philippians 2:5), and started to pray for the Trump family.
This call from Christ to love our enemies is counterintuitive and contradictory. St. John Paul II referred to Jesus as the sign of contradiction in his book with this same title.
We are called to also be signs of contradiction. Our faith instructs us to defend the marginalized by reducing excessive social and economic inequalities (CCC 1947), particularly those populations harmed by Trump’s policies and racist rhetoric.
But our witness falls short if we cannot follow all of Christ’s teachings. Therefore, we must also pray for Mr. and Mrs. Trump.
All people have dignity. President Trump, despite his lackluster attitude toward coronavirus and his ambivalence towards face coverings, is loved by God and is not excluded from God’s mercy.
We can pray for the president who persecutes Black people and Persons of Color, and who mocks and attacks those who work for justice. We can pray for his healing and swift recovery, as we would pray for anyone who has fallen prey to this deadly pandemic.
We can especially pray that this time of quarantine and recuperation for Mr. Trump may serve to teach him to love with the love of Christ, to defend those who suffer, and to truly make America great again by leading the country with love, not division.
May this time of recuperation teach Mr. Trump compassion and empathy for those who suffer, and may it lead him to be a leader who cares for his people.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola experienced his revolutionary conversion while recovering from a battle wound. He asked for literature to read while bedridden, and all that was available was The Life of Christ and a book on the saints.
Ignatius read these holy accounts and began to daydream. When Ignatius dreamed of being a worldly knight, he noticed he felt empty once that daydream ended. However, when he dreamt of following in the example of the saints, Ignatius became filled with lasting joy and peace.
These various spiritual movements comprised his widely used Rules for the Discernment of Spirits written in his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius gave these Exercises to help people become closer to God, and later formed a company of priests known today as the Society of Jesus.
God can use anyone and any circumstance for the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot consider it beyond God’s ability to use Trump’s coronavirus experience as redemptive, leading him to conversion and to become a better person and leader.
Praying for the Trump family does NOT look past any of Mr. Trump’s wrongful acts. As theologian Dr. MT Davila stated via Twitter, “It is perfectly ok to hold two conflicting truths in one’s head and heart. We can wish for good health for all the sick – including POTUS and FLOTUS, AND be incensed and hold him responsible for mishandling the pandemic.”
We can pray for our enemies while also calling them to task for their wrongs and working towards achieving justice.
I am moved by former Vice President Joe Biden’s message to his political enemy Donald Trump upon learning that Melania and he tested positive for this virus:
“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery. We will continue to pray for the health and the safety of the president and his family.”
While many, including certain bishops, have scrutinized the veracity of Biden’s Catholic faith, Biden is undeniably following Christ’s call to love one’s enemies and to pray for them.
I am grateful for Biden’s Christian leadership and I pray that all people follow in the Democratic presidential candidate’s example to pray for one’s enemies, and in this case to pray for the Trump family.