Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Like the daughter of Jairus in the Gospel who was in need of Christ’s healing touch [Mark 5:21-24a], our nation is also in desperate need of Christ’s transformation. While we should be free to exorcise our religion in peace without the interference of the government, our freedom of worship is under increasingly greater restraints.
When we celebrate our nation’s independence, we must reaffirm the vision of our founding fathers. They desired that we live in a free and just society and thus they said:
“We hold [certain] truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Sacred Scripture remind us that the poor and vulnerable, especially those in the womb, are often threatened. So we are called to be protectors of life and dignity. In a statement on political responsibility called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. Bishops write:
“As the Holy Father […] taught in Deus Caritas Est, ‘The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful’ (no. 29).
This duty is more critical than ever in today’s political environment, where Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the Church’s comprehensive commitment to the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.
“Yet this is not a time for retreat or discouragement; rather, it is a time for renewed engagement. Forming their consciences in accord with Catholic teaching, Catholic lay women and men can become actively involved: running for office; working within political parties; communicating their concerns and positions to elected officials; and joining diocesan social mission or advocacy networks, state Catholic conference initiatives, community organizations, and other efforts to apply authentic moral teaching in the public square” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, no. 16).
The Church has a responsibility to be involved in the political process. The bishops remind us:
“The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, no. 59).
In each election, the Church asks us, as faithful Catholics and good citizens, to properly form our consciences, to become educated about the issues, and support the election of candidates who reflect Catholic moral teaching. Remember that we are citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom first before we are citizens of any particular country. Our first loyalty must be to no earthly king, president or government. Christ is our King. Christ is our Lord. The Church Christ has established in this world does not surrender her moral teaching authority to the leaders of this world.
There have been those who have tried to crush the Church and throttle her and even silence her voice. For example, in the year 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte captured the city of Rome, and took Pope Pius VI prisoner. Napoleon thought that he could intimidate the Pope, and pressure him to win cooperation of the French people, who, at the time, were thoroughly Catholic. But the Pope refused to be Napoleon’s puppet.
In a burst of anger, Napoleon shouted at the Pope:
“If you will not do as I command, I will destroy the Church in one year!”
The Pope, in turn, calmly replied:
“If we, who are within the Church, have for 1800 years failed with our sins to have destroyed her, I doubt very much that you will succeed.”
What a foolish thing for Napoleon to have said! Did not Christ himself, after all, promise that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against his Church? But Napoleon is no anomaly to history. In every age, the Church has been attacked, and persecuted, and threatened with destruction.
Even in the very first century of her existence, the Emperor Nero thought that if he were to capture and kill St. Peter, the first Pope, then he will have effectively destroyed Christianity. St. Peter died a martyr’s death on Vatican hill in Rome, and above is grave stands today the most magnificent basilica in the world. But Nero, and the entire Roman Empire, live only in the pages of history, crushed by the binding of a book.
This week the best thing you can do for your nation is to be present in church for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Independence Day and pray – pray for our nation and offer God a Holy Communion of reparation for the countless offenses against God’s law that are increasing in our country day by day.
My dear friends of Jesus and Mary, what could our nation become if Catholics lived their faith? What might America become if all Catholics went to Mass and confession regularly. How do we raise up this nation? We Catholics must bring this nation to Christ, for He alone can touch the hand of this country and raise her up to be a nation of firm purpose, for as Isaiah says (Is. 26:3):
“A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.”