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Independence and Catholic heritage are inseparable Throughout history,
people have celebrated freedom. The early Christians knew freedom in
their hearts only to serve the true God. Perhaps their commitment was
even more fervent, filled with inward enthusiasm that showed itself
through outward expression in an atmosphere where they
had to not only practice their faith but to openly say that they were
followers of Christ. And what they said was what they did. We can see
they truly were Christians. They suffered and died for their
principles, their faith, and their God when they would not sacrifice to
the false Roman pagan gods.

When Constantine brought into law the Edict
of Milan in 313, all peoples were given independence, on a scale
never experienced before, to worship as they pleased without fear of
being put to death. In fact, since the harsh Roman restraints were no
longer present, some Christians even became lax in their worship. No
longer did they have to profess in a public way, with wholeheartedness
what they believed in their hearts, without fear that they might be put to
death for their practices. But in any case,  newly found freedom is something that people
throughout the ages have found liberating.

Our own United States was
formed from thirteen original colonies under the yoke of a foreign power
with “salutary neglect”, until the British realized that the only way to
get what they could out of them was to make some laws and force the
colonists to obey. But it was not long before revolution was in the
air. The Boston Tea Party was the official ritual of dissenting against
the King and his enforcers. From a land separated by an ocean of water
from its owner, the colonists were inspired by men such as Benjamin
Franklin, Thomas Paine, and further by George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson, and others. They wanted complete independence from the
British to govern their land the way they thought was best.

God was made primary in their Declaration of Independence of July
1776. They felt bound by not only the “laws of nature”, but “nature’s
God”, to throw off the political bands connecting them to England. They
knew “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…” Their reasons for their feelings of being wronged were
directed to the King of England, in that he had refused his “assent to
laws” and “forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and
pressing importance.” The King was accused of not giving them the
rights of representatives, holding standing armies, failure of a proper
judiciary, hindering trade to other parts of the world, and so forth.
John Hancock also appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world for
rectitude of our intentions.” The American authorities were willing to
give their lives for what they believed the people of the colonies were
entitled to—independence and freedom to live without the tyranny of a
foreign power.

They fought a War of Independence to prove that they
wanted their liberty. They placed on their documents “In God we trust”,
and were thankful to God that they were now able to live normal lives
without a foreign power. Thomas McKean, one of the signers of the
Declaration of Independence, was a wealthy planter and trader. He
believed so much in what he did that he lost his ships to the British
navy. The money he loaned to the American cause was never paid back.
His plantations and other property had to be sold to pay his debts.
Other men lost their fortunes too, such as Francis Lewis who had his
home and properties wiped out, and his wife jailed by the enemy
for two months and dying two years later. The children of “Honest John”
Hart, a New Jersey farmer, fled for their safety. His fields and mill
were destroyed. He had a hard time escaping from the British and lived
each day like a tramp, sleeping and eating what little he could. He
returned home
later, and his farm and livestock were gone along with his wife and
children. He never saw his family again.

These are true episodes of
sacrifice for a principle that the founding fathers of America believed
in. They turned to God for all His help and consolation. The wonderful
facts about the history of our country are that the Blessed Mother has
played prominently in her success. The British tried a second time,
during the War of 1812, to win the “Second War for Independence” against
the newly established republic.
The final battle of New Orleans in 1815 was crucial. The Ursuline
sisters prayed the entire night, with many of the faithful, and the wives
and daughters of American soldiers, in their chapel before the statue of
Our Lady of Prompt Succor. They asked Our Lady for help over the
British forces who were seeking to sack New Orleans. General
Andrew Jackson later thanked the sisters for their good deeds and
prayers, for his troops having such few casualties and having defeated a
superior enemy force.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in
Washington, D.C. is a testimony to the faithful of this country. On
this Independence Day, we must never forget the many blessings that Our
Lord has bestowed upon this country, despite its sins and imperfections,
and especially its lack of respect for human life at all stages.

From
the time of the early Catholic Spanish explorers and missionaries–from
the first Mass celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida to the Franciscans
in California with Father Junipero Sera, we can readily grasp the
impact of our Catholic heritage on these shores. From the early French
Canadian missionaries–such as Fr. Isaac Jocques–to the establishment of
the first diocese in Baltimore, Maryland by Bishop John Caroll, to other
notable Catholics in American history, we can continue to pray with
them, along with our patroness, Holy Mother Mary that the dear Lord will
bless this country and rid it of its scourge of transgressions.

Like
the early Christians, the freedom of America, gained by the blood of the
early fighting revolutionaries, should leave us proud our heritage
and make the Almighty Father happy to know that the words in the
Declaration of Independence are truly a part of our lives and those of
our children. America has shown so often that the words “these truths to be
self-evident” are true for other peoples in the world today, by its
concern for the less fortunate and particularly the pre-born, infirm,
and elderly.

The early Christians had something to be proud of by
worshipping their God. In America, we need to rededicate ourselves to
being like them and to truly fight for the freedom of all individuals. The
early Christians truly knew God. Today, we need to place God back in our schools, in all areas of public life, and not be
afraid to say the “Pledge of Allegiance” and have the Ten Commandments
displayed. There is much that needs to be improved upon, but with God’s help
and stirring closely to the ideals of freedom, it is not impossible to
improve upon what has already been achieved. For sure, we do not want
to go backwards in our July 4th celebration of our freedom. Country,
freedom, and patriotism are important. The early Christians knew this
too, and they always placed God first in priority in their lives, above
any other consideration.

Without God, nothing is possible and certainly
our independence as a sovereign nation can not be maintained. We must
not forget that the source of our greatness as a country is because of the Trinitarian God.

 


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