The recessional hymn at the Mass I attended yesterday was America the Beautiful. While part of the Catholic hymnal, the patriotic nature of the song makes it a unique but appropriate selection in commemoration and celebration of Independence Day. I’ve heard and sung this or God Bless America at other Masses in past years, but hearing America the Beautiful yesterday turned on a light in my head, one that I hope also illuminated inside my fellow parishioners.
- America! America!
- God shed His grace on thee,
- And crown thy good with brotherhood
- From sea to shining sea!
Hearing that familiar and beautiful refrain for the umpteenth time, its real significance finally hit me. Like that other traditional American song, God Bless America, the refrain of America the Beautiful recognizes the essential nature of God’s omnipotence and grace in the beginning, present and future of this country. It doesn’t matter (except perhaps to progressives and post-religionists), that the lyrics were written in 1895. It’s words and meaning ring true today, as do the words at the beginning of our Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
God’s grace has endowed us with rights – gifts – that we are to cherish and protect. Among these include the right to NOT believe in God, His divine providence or His granting of our unalienable rights. This, IMO, is the beauty of the Declaration as well as that of the Christian faith (which the majority of the Founding Fathers practiced): Freedom to believe – or not to believe – and the tolerance, patience and humility to accept God’s will and love for everyone. Unfortunately, we hear and see too many examples of those in the United States who twist the meaning of our freedoms to imply that God and religion need to be removed from society and the fabric of our country in order to establish “equality” and “fairness”. Even those Founding Fathers who did not believe in traditional Christianity (Deists such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin) understood and defended the basic and essential truth of our Creator-endowed rights as well as the moral good of religious practice – especially public religious practice.
God, whether in the minds and hearts of Christians, Jews, Muslims or otherwise, cannot be removed from the fabric of this country. To do so would be to disavow of the fundamental principle by which the United States of America was created – Freedom.
Have a wonderful Independence Day and may God Bless America!
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