July 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Fourth of July is one of my favorite days. Living across the street from a public high school field from which the town fireworks display was launched each year made it extra special, as did the presence of many relatives and friends who would come to our house to celebrate the day (as well as my father's and brother's birthdays). We watched fireworks and sang the national anthem on Independence Day. And if you never noticed, the national anthem ends with a question,
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
It’s a question that challenges us and asks if we are still fighting and sacrificing for the principles that our founding fathers — and so many others since them — fought and died for. Is that flag still waving, despite the sustained attacks on the principles at the foundation of the country it represents? It’s a challenge to us. The Fourth of July is a reminder to renew our resolve to say yes, that banner will yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Similarly, one of my other favorite patriotic songs, America the Beautiful, reminds us:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
Freedom for all happens not by chance; it takes stern impassioned stress. Today, embracing stern impassioned stress is the only way we succeed. Nothing less is required to uphold and defend our nation’s principles starting with the right to life. Our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to defend the principles of the right to life, of freedom and of the dignity of human person. So must we.
In my travels, I always enjoy meeting so many of you in the pro-life movement who are patriots of the highest order. You love our country, you love life, and you love the principles on which this nation was founded. You know that you are fighting for the principles to restore protection to the unborn. Our great nation was not founded based on geography or ethnicity; it was founded on ideas and grounded on the principle of the dignity of the human person and the right to life, in which founders believed and about which they explicitly spoke in the Declaration of Independence.
As a priest, furthermore, I enjoy offering the prayers of the liturgy for Independence Day. The Preface is particularly inspiring. It reads in part,
“[Christ] spoke to men a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers. His message took form in the vision of our fathers, as they fashioned a nation where men might live as one. This message lives on in our midst as a task for men today and a promise for tomorrow. We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past, and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve” (Sacramentary, Preface for Independence Day I, P82).
The blessings we give thanks for on the Fourth of July are many. I have come to realize that more than ever as I have had occasion to speak on almost every continent. We give thanks not only for material possessions and for freedom, but for the vision behind them. The vision is that “men might live as one”; the vision is that all will be welcomed, as the Statue of Liberty symbolizes; the vision is that “all are created equal”; the vision is “liberty and justice for all.”
It is a vision that we do not merely look back on, thanking God that our Founding Fathers had it. It is, rather, a vision which is “a task for today and a promise for tomorrow.”
This is why the pro-life movement is so American. It is a movement striving to achieve welcome for those of whom Roe v. Wade spoke when it said, “The word 'person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn” (Roe at 158). Roe excluded; the pro-life movement includes. Roe made the circle of persons in America smaller; the pro-life movement seeks to expand it.
Independence Day reminds us to continue to fight for their rights. I recall one Fourth of July, when some friends of mine and I held a banner in front of my house as all the people gathered across the street for the fireworks. It said, “Pray to end Abortion.” One man, expressing agreement with the message, questioned whether it was the right setting to deliver it. “Of course it is,” I explained. “This is the day we celebrate a nation in which all is supposed to be considered equal. What better way to celebrate our freedom than to work to extend it to others?”
I pray you will all enjoy this Fourth of July. I know I will, as I watch the fireworks right from home. As I celebrate Mass that day, I will pray that this year's celebration will renew your determination to work for justice and freedom for all unborn Americans. Let us celebrate this great day in saying, ”Yes, I will rise to the occasion with stern impassioned stress. I am ready today to give and pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor to defend the right to life.”
Let’s have a joyful day and thank God for what this country stands for. And let's ask His continued blessings over the land of free and home of the brave, which, as Pope Saint John Paul II told us, can only remain great to the extent to which it protects the weakest among us, those yet in the womb.