This week our country will celebrate Independence Day. It’s a time for picnics and fireworks, boating and beaching, as well as celebrating all that is America. Unfortunately, as American nationalism has grown over the last several decades, there’s a danger when people put country before God, nation before religious faith.
In an article published in America last year, Father Brian McElroy asked the question of how Catholics should respond to this rise of overwhelming patriotism and nationalism. In the first place love of one’s country is considered a virtue by the Catholic Church. Being patriotic is upheld as a dynamic that is meant to unite a nation – never to divide it. However, love of country must never come before love of God and faithfully living the gift of faith He has so generously bestowed upon us. Therefore, when situations occur that place Catholics at odds with our faith and morals, the practice of upholding our Faith must always come first.
McElroy reminds us that our greatness as a nation relies on how we uphold justice, freedom, truth and solidarity for all our citizens. Without these, our government – along with our country – would crumble. Our Constitution begins with the words, “We the people….” If this does not mean all people, then what our Constitution stands for is but a “house of cards.” The greatness of our nation must uphold the dignity of every person regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or status. All are equal before the law, just as each person is equal in the sight of God.
Finally, we must remember as Catholics that we always work for the common good, that is, the good of all. Thus, the good of all triumphs over individual rights. This may be the most difficult aspect to come to terms with in a nation that values freedom. However, when individuals determine their own “freedom” — versus the common good — the ability to uphold justice, truth, freedom and unity take a back seat to the rights of one.
Pope Francis, in his September 2015 message to a joint session of the U.S. Congress said: “The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.”