I am not very proud to admit that over the years I have taken the 4th of July, or should I say the real meaning of this national holiday, for granted over the years. To me, the date has been more about another way and another special day to celebrate summer; my favorite season of the year. When I was a child it meant family gatherings and those famous John Philip Sousa marches playing somewhere in the background and fireworks along the Detroit River. It’s not that I wasn’t proud to be an American. But to be brutally honest, it had to do much more with family, friends, good food, and all the fun festivities than freedom and independence. Freedom and independence, I so naively thought, could never be in question. This was America for crying out loud! So, don’t worry, be happy and pass the pasta salad and Italian sausage sandwiches.
But that was then and this is now and “who would have thunk it” as the old saying goes. Well I have been thinking a lot lately about what July 4th really represents. My concerns over what we may be on the very verge of losing in this amazing land of ours has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart. One of my most recent “aha” moments was standing in line at U.S. Customs at JFK airport. Maybe it was the fact that I was just returning from the Holy Land and once again had a front row seat in witnessing the continued persecution of Christians. Given the recent attacks on the Church in the United States via among other things, the HHS Mandate and the continual help of a mostly hostile secular press, I had a finer appreciation for their suffering. It wasn’t my first experience behind the wall in Bethlehem, but this time around I found myself identifying more closely with my brothers and sisters in the City of David. They were prisoners in their own hometown. As I waited for my turn to be granted entry back into the U.S., it occurred to me that with this mandate comes the effort to redefine religion and a blatant attempt to limit the practice of our faith. Maybe it was jet lag, but I realized that the men and women in a land thousands of miles and many worlds away were not so different from us after all. If the mandate, through the new nationalized healthcare plan is allowed to stand, we could also be prisoners of sorts in our own parishes, churches, and synagogues.
Similar feelings came over me as I watched a video produced by the Michigan Catholic Conference. The Conference was one of 43 religious organizations to file suit over the federal government mandate on May 21, 2012. The same day that I watched the video on-line, I also interviewed a representative from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the upcoming Fortnight for Freedom scheduled for June 21st through July 4th. The Fortnight for Freedom refers to the 14-day period established by the bishops to encourage Catholics and other people of faith to pray for our country and conduct activities in support of our constitutional rights. Who would have ever thought, I said to myself and to my radio listeners that morning, our Bishops, other Catholic representatives, and our Church in general would believe that such educational and legal efforts would be necessary? Who would have ever believed even a few years ago that we would get to this point? The Fortnight for Freedom by the way begins appropriately on the eve of the feast of the great English martyrs: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.
So that’s why July 4th will be different for my family this year. Yes we will still head to the park or the beach to watch the fireworks, listen to patriotic music, and enjoy plenty of good food. But, first and most importantly, we will spend a lot more time on our knees.
Teresa’s latest book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture has been on the Catholic best-seller list since its release in October, 2011.
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