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Do Presidents’ Day and Ash Wednesday have any connection beyond their close proximity on the calendar this year?
It turns out that reflecting on the history of the United States through the lens of the legacies of 46 presidents can be a helpful tool in preparing for the penitential journey of Lent. Taking into account slavery, Jim Crow, Native American genocide, and other issues, this history raises the question of what individual people in the United States can do to reconcile these harms with a country they love and call home.
It’s helpful to remember that Lent is a communal exercise, not merely an act of individual self-improvement. God calls on everyone to name the sins of the whole community, confront them, and ultimately make acts of reparation.
In this episode, Sister EIlis speaks with Saint Joseph of Peace Sister Susan Francois about the importance of engaging in communal journeys of repentance. Sister Susan caused a stir back in 2018 when she began tweeting daily prayers at then-President Donald Trump. Joan and Colin dig deeper into Presidents’ Day by asking Meghan Clark, associate professor of moral theology at St. John’s University in New York City, about the troubled legacies of U.S. presidents. When the lens is Catholic social justice, even the most accomplished leaders cast dark shadows in places.
You can learn more about our guests in the links below.
- Additional background on Sister Susan Francois tweeting at President Trump.
- Information on the 1919 Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction, the documents that would serve as a blueprint for the New Deal.
- Other writings by Meghan Clark.
Just Politics is sponsored by St. Jude League Community Development.