Sometimes we can only truly appreciate what we have when we see it from an outsider’s point of view. With Independence Day coming this Friday, I would like to look at what our nation is all about from a British perspective. The British Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton (1876-1936) had traveled in the United States, and he wrote about his experience. In What I Saw in America, Chesterton makes in important point: “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence... and it by inference condemns atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived.”
Our nation has received many blessings from God. So if we are to fulfill what many consider to be our destiny, it needs to be in the context of these blessings. Many people have sacrificed many things over the years to keep our nation free and strong, and it is vital that we continue to seek God’s will. Sometimes it takes years to correct injustices, as we remember that slavery was legal in parts of our nation until the Civil War. But we continue to ask for guidance. We ask God to guide us to care for the weakest and poorest among us, including the unborn. We ask God to help us work for the rights of all people, remembering that those rights are not merely the license to do whatever we want but to build a society on the true good of all people.
I remember the times of protest in the 1960s and 1970s. Those who felt that it was unpatriotic to question our leaders quoted a line from British military commander Stephen Decatur, “Our country, right or wrong.” I always liked the quotation from American statesman Carl Schurz (1829-1906), who expanded upon that saying, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.” Today, as we celebrate our national independence, we realize that we need to follow God’s law in order to be the great nation which Chesterton described and which our Founding Fathers intended.
Meanwhile, I wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July. May we truly be grateful that, as The Declaration of Independence states, we “are endowed by [our] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Happy Independence Day, and God bless America. Please note that the Mass for July 4 will be at 9:00 in the morning and that the parish office will be closed on that day.