Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Today, the Fourth of July is a day of national celebration in the United States. Historically, it’s an experiment in democracy, eagerly watched by the entire world. Our fledgling nation sought to govern themselves through the rule of law apart from the monarchical systems of Europe. It was a prime example of the self-determination of a people.
When we think of those who took the unprecedented step to break from Mother England, we see that our forefathers were imbued with a sense that their cause was blessed by God. Names like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams now etched forever in history.
Patrick Henry, the great orator, spoke powerfully of the American Revolution. “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!”
Then, Henry captured and solidified the essence of the revolution in the last phrase of his famous speech, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
This impassioned plea reflected the intensity of the desire for liberty, imbedded in the dignity of the human person. We would win the Revolutionary War, but the struggle for freedom continued, as other champions emerged even into the modern era. Whether fighting for religious liberty or civil rights, the principle remains the same.
In 1955, a seamstress boarded a public bus in Montgomery, Ala., a city with segregation rules known as “Jim Crow” laws. These restrictions designated “whites only” and “colored” access sections in many places, including public transportation, where people of color had to give up their seats for white people. Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat. She demanded equal treatment under the law, exercising her right as an American citizen.
While lengthy battles for just causes may be exhausting, we know the exhilarating feeling of freedom is contagious – here in the U.S. and beyond.
On June 5, 1989, a young Chinese man used his body as a human blockade by standing in front of a column of tanks, drawing worldwide attention to the military massacre in Tiananmen Square. While many of us don’t know his name, the image of his resistance against his oppressors still resonates with free people worldwide.
Members of the Catholic Church and people of other denominations refuse to relinquish our unified position on the protection of the life of the unborn. It’s an ongoing struggle.
We must continue our vigilance against enemies plotting to destroy our nation, and against anyone attempting to restrict our freedom through manipulation of federal, state and local laws. Freedom of religion, recognized by the Constitution, is foremost a right given by God. When freedom of religion is restricted only to worship in churches, synagogues, mosques or prayer halls, God’s voice is then muffled. Our free exchange of ideas is a sham.
This is the last day of our “Fortnight for Freedom.” As Catholics, and as Americans, we must continue praying and acting against any tyranny limiting the universal mission of the Church. Let us pray:
Almighty God, father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1)
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty
The foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God for ever and ever. Amen
We engage in this ongoing struggle because we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as a special July 4, 2012 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki for the "Fortnight for Freedom" observance. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.