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Radio Diary: 'On Eagle's Wings'

President-elect Joe Biden addresses the nation at the Chase Center November 06, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President-elect Joe Biden addresses the nation at the Chase Center November 06, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Joe Biden addressed the nation for the first time as president-elect. Biden will be the second Catholic president in the nation’s history, and he referenced his Catholic faith by invoking a particular hymn.

“It captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America. And I hope … it can provide some comfort and solace to the 230,000 Americans who’ve lost a loved one to this terrible virus this year,” President-elect Biden said, of the hymn.

“My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully this hymn gives you solace as well. It goes like this: ‘ And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you just shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand …‘”

Biden said the hymn was particularly meaningful to his late son, Beau Biden. And now, he sees the hymn as meaningful for the whole country, too:

“Now, together, on eagle’s wings, we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do …”

The hymn draws from Psalm 91 in the Bible. But it was composed by Father Jan Michael Joncas, a priest, artist-in-residence and research fellow in Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. We speak with Father Joncas about the story behind ‘On Eagle’s Wings.’

In this diary … we hear from:

Father Jan Michael Joncas, a priest, artist-in-residence and research fellow in Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

With closing credits by Susan Powell and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic performing “On Eagles Wings” at the memorial service for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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