Happy Birthday USA!

David McCullough, the author of such awarding winning histories as John Adams, 1776 and Truman, reflects on the men whose signatures led to Saturday’s celebration of our independence as a nation.

“Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic, and they were young. We see their faces in old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush was 30. These were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work. They had no money, no navy, and no real army. There wasn’t a bank in the entire country. There wasn’t but one bridge between New York and Boston. It was a little country of 2,500,000 people – 500,000 of whom were held in slavery. America was a little fringe of settlement along the east coast.

And think of this – there are only a few nations in the world who know when they were born. We know exactly when we began and who did it.”

This Saturday, we do what few nations on our planet can do. We celebrate the moment our nation was born, honor the men and women who brought our nation into being, and remember the principles that inspired the beginning of the American experience.

The work began in 1776 – to “establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” It is a “revolution” that begins anew with every generation of Americans.

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States issued two rulings with particular meaning for us as Catholics.

In one ruling, the Supreme Court preserved subsidies for 6.4 million low-income Americans who depend on them to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Yes, as Catholics we have issues with some provisions of this legislation.  That is why the bishops of our nation invite us to participate in the “Fortnight for Freedom” that will conclude on Saturday. We must continue to pray and advocate for the preservation of our religious freedom.  Yet, we also must remember that for many of the working poor this decision provides access to health care that they desperately need.

In the second decision, the Supreme Court ruled that two persons of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry each other. Archbishop Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago wrote in response to this ruling that, “It is important to note that the Catholic Church has an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons. . . . the Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God.”

Archbishop Cupich goes on to say, “It is also important to stress that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony, in which the marriage of a man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. In upholding our traditional concept of marriage, we are called to support those who have entered into this sacred and loving bond with God and each other.  . . .  Our aim in all of this will be to hold fast to an authentic understanding of marriage which has been written in the human heart, consolidated in history, and confirmed by the Word of God.”

These decisions, along with the tragedy in Charleston, may cause some to wonder what kind of “revolution” is taking place in our nation.  So, this is a good time to remember that God always walks with all of us as sons and daughters.  He knows us completely and loves us just as we are.  Not because we are perfect, but because we are his.

May our observance of Independence Day on Saturday, call all of us to recommit ourselves to our nation’s unique covenant of establishing a land of justice, peace and liberty. A vision that we who are disciples of Jesus understand, will only be realized with the establishment of God’s reign in this time and place.

A reminder that Bishop Lennon invites everyone to join him for a special Mass at 10:00 am this Saturday, July 4th, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, corner of East 9th and Superior Avenues in Cleveland, to conclude the Fortnight for Freedom.

To slow down my life a little, through Labor Day I am blogging every other week – so my next blog will be on July 15th.

A question for reflection – What intentions will you be praying for as our nation celebrates Independence Day this Saturday?

July 1st, 2015 |