Posts Tagged ‘Independence Day’

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day, tomorrow, is also the conclusion of our Fortnight for Freedom, our two-weeks of prayer, penance, and advocacy on behalf of our “first and most cherished freedom,” that of religion.  We thank God for it, and ask for the fortitude – - like that characterizing John the Baptist, John Fisher, and Thomas More, saints whose feasts we celebrate during the Fortnight – - in defending it.

Couple of weeks ago, I visited the Albanian Islamic Center on Victory Boulevard in Staten Island.  (You may have seen the coverage in last week’s Catholic New York).  What a grand day it was!  I felt very much at home, and was welcomed as a family member.  As one of the Imams pointed out, of course I was a family member, since we were all children of the same one, true God, the God of Abraham, the God revealed to and by Israel, Jesus, and Mohammed.  With the same Father, the Imam concluded, we’re brothers and sisters!

One of the many fond memories of the visit was how glowingly the Imams and the people spoke of their love for America.  The Moslems were clear that what drew them to our country was, yes, the promise of economic prosperity, and the appeal of Democracy, but also, religious freedom.  Many of them were fleeing homelands where people of different creeds fought, often violently, and distrusted each other, and where governments opposed and oppressed religion.

Here, they boasted with obvious relief and gratitude, people of faith work together, trust each other, live next to each other, and welcome each other, as my visit displayed.

And here, the Imams and their people remarked, government protects religious liberty, and doesn’t impede or restrict it.  In America, my Islamic friends observed, the conviction is that freedom of religion is a given in human nature, self-evident and given by God, to use the vocabulary of the Founding Fathers, not a concession or favor from big government.  Here, they sighed in relief, the government leaves us alone, allowing us the free exercise of our religion.  Here, they concluded, religion was looked upon as a plus, a blessing, to society.

Those radiant comments seemed even more compelling since, as we spoke, one could see the Statue of Liberty in the harbor; that the day I visited was right before our opening of the Fortnight for Freedom; and that Independence Day was near.

Part of my prayer this Fourth of July will be that my Islamic neighbors will never regret their decision to come here, and that the promise of religious liberty they found so magnetic will never become a sham in this “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

God Bless America

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Tomorrow is the birthday of our nation, and with the rest of you, I will be thanking God for the bountiful blessings He has lavished upon our wonderful country.  Daily I find myself praying for citizens and inhabitants of other nations where, instead of peace, prosperity, and freedom, they experience war, violence, hunger, persecution, sickness, poverty, and oppression.  May God continue to bless America!  May the Lord keep calling us to the noble virtues that have made us stand tall: a respect for all life, the hunger for justice, the desire for peace and the fostering of family life and the common good.

The quality we Americans most cherish is liberty.  It is here that we Christians, while patriots, often find ourselves restless.  Not that we are not grateful for our freedom – you bet we are!  But we admit that too often liberty has been misinterpreted to mean license.  No one articulated this apprehension better than Pope John Paul II, who taught, “genuine freedom is not the right to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.”  So, our American freedom is not a “cutting loose” from God, morality, virtue, or responsibility, but a bracing impetus to carry out the duties that are ingrained deep in our soul.

For us as Catholics, the teaching of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, the preaching of Jesus, the morality of the Church, all enhance and protect genuine freedom.  God gives us freedom, and then implants in our hearts and reveals to us the sense of moral duty that allows us to live “in the freedom of the children of God.”

We believers, while so thankful for our political independence, are also concerned abut a moral autonomy, which makes us comfortable living without responsibility to God.  This desire to be “free from God,” has cursed us since the Garden of Eden.  Words such as subjection, lordship, kingdom, and servant are hardly popular in our American vocabulary.  In our religious lexicon, though, they are at the core of our relationship with God.  We know that America, like any other nation on earth, indeed, like the Israel of the Hebrew Scriptures, is at its best when it acknowledges its absolute reliance upon God and its trust in His sovereignty and providence.

It has been observed that perhaps the most revolutionary words an American can utter today are those which open the Creed:  “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…”  God, not I, is sovereign; the Lord, not the state, is almighty; God’s way, not mine, is normative; the Lord’s designs, not my puny plans, are definitive.  To rebel against God, then, brings, not liberty, but slavery; to obey the Lord leads, hardly to shackles, but to genuine freedom.

So, maybe I should be wishing you all a “Happy Dependence Day.”

Declaring Our Dependence (on God)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

This week I am on a pilgrimage with the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Seplechure to various holy sites in Germany.  However, I thought you might be interested in my column that appears in this week’s issue of Catholic New York.  The title is Declaring Our Dependence (on God), and you can find it here.

Have a safe and blessed Fourth of July!”