From the Bishop



As we approach the celebration of July 4, or more precisely “Independence Day,” we come to the second of the three secular holidays which form the summer season (The first being Memorial Day, the last being Labor Day).

Like the others, this day has family settings and religious/faith overtones. Growing up in the Midwest, the day was always marked by neighborhood parades of families with wagons being pulled down the street with the younger family members. This was still the case when I was assigned to Blessed Sacrament parish in Springfield. Such parades were held both on Glenwood and Walnut streets which framed the parish church. There were the “safe” fireworks of caps, “snakes” and the occasional bottle rockets. As a family we would go to the D.A.V. (Disabled American Veterans), the Knights of Columbus or later on some of the various clubs on Lake Springfield. We would cook-out there, or later Dad would grill at home.

The evening would usually find us at the “Drive-In” where our folks would take to a movie, and where we would safely watch fireworks in our station wagon, along with a film (either the 66 Drive-in Theater named after the famous highway on which it was located or the Springfield Drive-in Theatre).

One year I seem to remember “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” with Jane Powell and Howard Keel (who was born just 50 miles south of Springfield in a little coal mining town called Gillespie, Illinois.) He was, as I also seem to remember, a local celebrity! I still enjoy movies related to the holidays. Most recently I watched Fred Astaire in a fabulous scene from “Holiday Inn” when he danced to firecrackers in a production number entitled “Say it with Firecrackers” for July 4!

California and Hollywood were a long way off then! But mostly I remember Dad being proud of being a Navy veteran, on a day when we would recall the reality and blessings of being a U.S. citizen – which certainly became even more of a reality and was confirmed when I lived out of the States for four years, and also got the chance to travel widely in my years as a priest and bishop. The reason for the celebration of Independence Day became very clear to me in those growing up years and beyond: The possibility to experience freedom to worship and practice and live one’s religious faith which was not – and is still not – possible in other parts of the world. And, to give thanks to God for that even with the challenges which we as a nation experience in our contemporary world.

Although the gatherings on July 4 are not strictly speaking to a religious holiday, nevertheless, the faith dimension is present in such hymns as “America the Beautiful” and the liturgical prayers for the day:
“Father of all nations and ages, we recall the day when our country claimed its place among the family of nations; for what has been achieved we give you thanks, for the work that remains we ask your help, and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth.”

Finally, I would like to share “Our Prayer for Our Government (1791)” by Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore, whose brother Charles Carroll of Carrollton was one of the signatories on the Declaration of Independence:

We pray O God of might, wisdom and justice,

Through whom authority is rightly administered,

Laws are enacted and judgement decreed, assist with

Your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude that the President of these United States, that his administration
May be conducted in righteousness and be eminently

To your people over whom he presides; by encouraging

Due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful

Execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and

By restraining vice and immorality.”