Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - Updated: 10:53 am
QUESTION: Almost every year on the Fourth of July I re-think my patriotism. I know I feel loyalty to the values of this great country. I know I am very grateful for the freedom I cherish. I know I am proud of and grateful to the men and women who gave their lives so that I could enjoy that freedom. But I am so deeply disappointed in our government as it exists today. It angers me that they, the elected officials, spend so little time on what matters to me. Can I really call myself a patriot anymore? What is the response the Church expects of me for my country?
ANSWER: I am sure that the writer of the above is not alone. But Saint Paul, long ago reminded the Christians at Corinth that they were sojourning in a foreign land and that they were really citizens of another kingdom. Nonetheless, Paul was somewhat proud of the fact that he was a Roman citizen and made use of the benefits of citizenship. And he also urged Christians to respect those in authority and pray for them.
Since the days of Paul of Tarsus, the Church of Christ has existed under almost every imaginable form of civil government. The Gospel has been preached, the sacraments have been celebrated and Christians have performed the work of charity in the midst of anarchy, democracy and totalitarian dictatorships.
The Catholic Church was rooted early in the fabric of what became the United States of America. Catholic faithful contributed greatly to this nation in many ways. Yet, there are Catholics today who wonder how their values are echoed in the values espoused by our government and those who lead it. Clearly there are many who are disappointed in the structures and leaders to whom we used to look for support for what we believe and hold sacred.
There are many who wonder how they can influence the course of our nation when it seems that only those with resources get elected. And those who do get elected seem to pander to some of the worst emotions. All this may lead some to a pessimism or even abandonment of government and politics. Especially on July 4th it is understandable for most of us to assess how we are to be patriotic.
But July 4th also reminds us that our nation belongs to each of us and all of us. This is our country. We cannot abandon it. But neither can we remain silent when it seems to fall short of the dreams of its founders or the values that have led others to give their lives for it.
We cannot afford to allow the prophetic voice to be silenced. For history gives ample evidence that those who truly love their nation cannot be blind to its flaws. We cannot fall into a pessimism that leads us to abandon active participation in the life of the nation. Patriotism has always meant loyalty to the values and dreams of America despite the human flaws of some of its citizens and its leaders. If we remain silent and aloof, what voices will guide the nation?
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.