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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy birthday, America—the beautiful

St. Ann Parish in Kosciusko, TX
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these 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. 

My deacon preached well this morning about the founding of the United States of America—an event rooted in a Christian worldview, as evidenced by the words above from the Declaration of Independence. One wonders if, given the rise of secularism, this founding document will soon be outlawed in public schools.

America along with much of the West is accelerating the speed with which it forgets—or actively casts aside—its Christian worldview. The resulting damage will be (and already is) profound. Within the rubble will be a good many people, families, cultures, and ecosystems.

In reflecting on the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by allied forces, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote an essay that opens thus ... 
On the 6th of June, 1944, when the landing of the allied troops in German-occupied rance commenced, a signal of hope was given to people throughout the world, and also to many in Germany itself, of imminent peace and freedom in Europe.  What had happened?  A criminal and his party faithful had succeeded in usurping the power of the German state.
In consequence of such party rule, law and injustice became intertwined, and often indistinguishable. The legal system itself, which continued, in some respects, still to function in an everyday context, had, at the same time, become a force destructive of law and right. This rule of lies served a system of fear, in which no one could trust another, since each person had somehow to shield himself behind a mask of lies, which, on the one hand, functioned as self defense, while, in equal measure, it served to consolidate the power of evil.  And so it was that the whole world had to intervene to force open this ring of crime, so that freedom, law and justice might be restored.
We give thanks at this hour that this deliverance, in fact, took place. And not just those nations that suffered occupation by German troops, and were thus delivered over to Nazi terror, give thanks. We Germans, too, give thanks that by this action, freedom, law and justice would be restored to us.  If nowhere else in history, here clearly is a case where, in the form of the Allied invasion, a justum bellum worked, ultimately, for the benefit of the very country against which it was waged.
To Europe was given, after 1945, a period of peace of such duration as our continent had never seen in its entire history.  To no small degree, this was the accomplishment of the first generation of post-war politicians -- Churchill, Adenauer, Schuman, De Gasperi - whom we have to thank at this hour: We are to give thanks that it was not punishment that was fixed upon, nor again revenge and the humiliation of the defeated, but rather that all should be accorded their rights.
Let us say it openly: These politicians took their moral ideas of state and right, peace and responsibility, from their Christian faith, a faith that had undergone the tests of the Enlightenment, and in opposing the perversion of justice and morality of the party-states, had emerged re-purified. They did not want to found a state upon religious faith, but rather a state informed by moral reason, yet it was their faith that helped them to raise up again a reason once distorted by, and held in thrall to ideological tyranny.
Ratzinger (and, as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI) spoke and wrote often about the West’s Christian roots and the consequences of claiming independence from them. 

Among these consequences will be an undoing of cultural norms (as we’re seeing with marriage) and the continued erosion of the natural environment. After all, why should one heed one set of natural laws and not others?

There is a link, as Pope Benedict noted, between our duties to the human person and the environment. There is also, then, a link between the degradation of both.

And so on this Fourth of July here in the United States of America, let us pray that we do not forget the divinely ordained laws that assure life, human dignity, and societal stability. Nor can we forget the Author of these laws. 

So if you have a moment, pray the prayer for the nation written by Archbishop John Carroll in 1791. His words remain ever relevant. My pastor led us in this prayer after morning Mass today. It was a powerful moment. These few words especially struck me ...
We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
 May God continue to shed His grace on Americathe beautiful!

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