Three days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, on November 25th, 1963, the official funeral service for the slain President was held at St. Matthew's Church in Washington D.C. In attendance were the Kennedy family and the newly sworn-in President Johnson, along with such luminaries as the King of Belgium, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg, Charles de Gaulle, and Haile Selassie I, and Cardinal Cushing, among many others.
The Most Reverend Philip M. Hannan offered the eulogy and used that poignant moment to highlight the passages from scripture that were most moving to the president.
What follows are excerpts from the sermon:
President John Kennedy was fond of quoting the Holy Bible. At the last dinner of his life in Houston, Texas, last Thursday night, he applied to a friend, as it should be applied to him, this combination of passages from the Proverbs and the prophecy of Joel: “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And "where there is no vision the people perish.”
And to those who shared his vision in this land and abroad he had said two months ago to the United Nations: “Let us complete what we have started, for as the Scriptures tell us, no man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
At this time of sorrow and burden, he would have you remember the passages from Joshua and Isaiah he had used in accepting the presidential nomination; “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary.”
Finally, in his last hours, President Kennedy had prepared these words for Dallas and for the nation: “The righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength, for as was written long ago, except the Lord guard the city, the guard watches in vain.”
The following is one of his favorite passages from Scripture, from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the third chapter: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate. A time of war, and time of peace.”
After citing the Bible passages that most represented the President, Father Hannan went on to quote the President himself from his inaugural address ending with these powerful, faithful words:
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy speaks at a press conference on August 1, 1963. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Husband And Wife
A photo dated in the 1950s shows John F. Kennedy with his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy is pictured here in this 1960s White House photo. He was the first Catholic, and the youngest person, to be elected as president of the United States (AFP/Getty Images).
U.S. Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) and his wife Jacqueline pose with their son John Jr. on December 10, 1960. (AFP/Getty Images)
Oath Of Office
John F. Kennedy takes the Oath of Office for President of the United States in January 1961. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
An unlocated photo shows U.S. President John F. Kennedy (R) chatting with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in the early 1960s. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (L) meets in January 1961 at the White House, with former U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
At The Podium
John Fitzgerald Kennedy delivers a speech at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York city, 29 April 1961.
By His Side
President John F. Kennedy speaks during a press conference as First Lady Jackie Kennedy looks on April 9, 1963 at the White House.
Facing The Press
President John F. Kennedy arrives for a press conference on August 30, 1961 in Washington.
U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the order of naval blockade of Cuba, on October 24, 1962 in the White House, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (AFP/Getty Images)
John Kennedy Jr. plays in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, DC, on October 15, 1963.
Picture dated 22 November 1963 of US President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, shortly before his assassination in Dallas. Photo prise le 22 novembre 1963, du Président J. F. Kennedy et son épouse Jacqueline, juste avant son assassinat à Dallas. (Photo credit should read OFF/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 25, 1963 file photo, 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father's casket in Washington, three days after the president was assassinated in Dallas. Widow Jacqueline Kennedy, center, and daughter Caroline Kennedy are accompanied by the late president's brothers Sen. Edward Kennedy, left, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this May 14, 1965 file photo, John Kennedy Jr., son of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, talks with a British police officer after the dedication ceremony for the memorial to the late president at Runnymede, Surrey, England. At second right is Jacqueline Kennedy. On an English hillside near where the Magna Carta was signed eight centuries ago, a seven ton Portland stone memorial stands on the historic grounds on an acre of land which became American property, in perpetuity - a gift from the British people. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 25, 1963 file photo, Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, holds the U.S. flag that covered the coffin of her husband at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. after he was buried. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)
The funeral procession of President John F. Kennedy goes into Arlington Cemetary in Washington. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
St Matthew's Cathedral
The coffin of assassinated American President John F. Kennedy is carried down the steps at St Matthew's Cathedral, Washington, after the requiem mass. Following the coffin is his widow Jackie Kennedy (centre), holding the hands of their children Caroline and John Jr. (1960 - 1999). Also in the group is Robert Kennedy. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
We Carry On
Front page of the Daily News dated Nov. 26, 1963, Headline: WE CARRY ON, John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father's casket as he stands with his mother Jacqueline Kennedy, sister Caroline, and uncles Robert and Edward during funeral for John F. Kennedy., (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
The eternal flame shines in the early morning light at the grave of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)