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.