Tag Archives: Independence Day

Independence Day

June 30, 2017



July 4th is our greatest civic holiday.  It commemorates the unanimous Declaration of Independence of the thirteen colonies that comprised the United States of America in General Congress on July 4, 1776.  With the Declaration, a new country was born, and July 4th serves as our nation’s annual birthday celebration.

July 4th is a time to honor our country, and there are many splendid traditional hymns to do so.  There is The Star-Spangled Banner, the National Anthem, by Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) and John S. Smith (1750-1836); Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, the Battle Hymn of the Republic; America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America the Beautiful; and God Bless America; to name some of the best known and most used.

July 4th is an important day to pray for our country.  The Roman Missal contains a Mass for the Dioceses of the United States, and it contains two options for each of the orations (Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, and Prayer after Communion) and the Preface, as well as a Solemn Blessing (pages 744 to 749).  The special Mass for peace and justice is highly appropriate, and a number of suitable readings are recommended in the Lectionary (Nos. 831-835).

There are several recurrent themes in the prayers.  There are multiple references to true justice and lasting peace.  Justice is the pathway to peace.  It is our fervent prayer that both the leaders and citizens of the United States will be guided by the principles of justice and truth and uphold them both at home and abroad, for when all are treated fairly, all can live together in mutual respect and harmony and enjoy safety and security.

The prayers also mention that our nation was drawn from many peoples of many lands, both the Native Americans who have lived in America for centuries, and countless waves of immigrants who have come since before the founding of the country to the present.  We pray that as diverse as we may be, that we will recognize that all are made in the image and likeness of God, all fellow human beings, all fellow Americans, brothers and sisters, and that God would continue to mold us into one great nation where all live together united as one.

The prayers also recognize how those who live in America have been richly blessed by the providence of God.  Ours is a land of plenty.  God has provided in abundance.  For those who have been given much, much is expected.  These blessings are not to be kept for ourselves alone.   The prayer makes a special petition:  “Grant that our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth.”  We implore God’s help for an ever-increasing spirit of generosity.

While the orations make no mention of those in the armed forces, every national holiday is an opportune time to pray for those in the military, past and present. For those who have served loyally and bravely, we give thanks for the sacrifices they have made, we offer our appreciation, and for those who have died, we commend their souls to almighty God.  For those currently serving, we ask God to grant them wisdom, courage, and protection, and after the successful completion of their tour of duty, that they would be returned home safely to family and friends.

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The Dual Citizenship of Catholic Americans

July 1, 2016

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July 4 is the celebration of Independence Day, the birthday of our country, the United States of America, and our citizenship in this great nation.  This national holiday is an occasion to reflect on the nature of dual citizenship, how a Christian is a citizen of a universal spiritual kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and an earthly kingdom, our country, the United States.

A Christian is a citizen of the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints, and the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, a Christian American has dual citizenship and dual allegiance, God and country.  The order is significant.  Both deserve love and loyalty, but they do not have equal standing.  God comes first.  God ranks above all else.  God is the principle focus of a Christian’s love and affection.  God is to be served first.  The Word of God, whether it is the law of love, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, other precepts in Scripture, or the teachings of the Church, are the principle statutes and decrees that govern a Christian’s life.

While spiritual citizenship ranks first and has precedence, earthly citizenship is vitally important.  Jesus highlighted this when he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:21).  A Christian has a duty and a moral obligation to “give to Caesar,” to be an active, responsible, contributing member of the earthly kingdom, in our case, the USA.

On Independence Day American citizens celebrate “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the “sweet land of liberty,” a country with amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains.  Our ancestors fought for our independence so we could have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The Church recognizes the rightful place of countries, governments, government leaders, and civils laws.  They are necessary for a well-ordered society.  Governments come in many forms.  Ours is a constitutional democracy.  All governments must serve the common good:  “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more easily” (Gaudium et spes, 26.1).  It consists of three elements:  respect for the individual person, the social well-being and development of the group, and peace, a prerequisite for the common good to flourish (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1907-1909).

The Church teaches that Christians have duties as citizens “to contribute along with civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.  The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity.  Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community” (CCC, No. 2239).

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, No. 2240).  All Americans, Christians included, would be well to ask, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy inauguration speech), and as good citizens, it is our civic duty to serve our fellow Americans and to work for the betterment of our city, state, and country, “One nation under God.”

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