Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Maria Goretti, the eleven-year-old Italian girl who would not allow a worker on the neighboring farm to rape her. She resisted him; infuriating him for not granting him his evil desires, and so he stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife. He was indicted for his crime and spent many years in prison. It was a time of conversion; when he was released from prison, he became a religious brother to spend the rest of his life making reparation for his sins and crime, and then in 1950, forty-eight years after the crime and glorious death of Maria Goretti, Pope Pius XII canonized her. Seated side by side at the ceremony of canonization were the old lady Assunta Goretti, the mother of the new saint, and Alessandro Serenelli, the man who had killed her. An unusual audience for a canonization ceremony!
This past weekend we celebrated the Fourth of July, and I was very happy to see that the Houston Chronicle observed the day by running a full-page feature picturing four of our founding fathers and a very important statement by each of them. I would like to read these statements to you now:
George Washington, our first president, said: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
John Adams, our second president, said: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, said: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
And then Benjamin Franklin, one of the outstanding thinkers of our young nation, said: “I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
I am very happy to see that, at least on special occasions and celebrations, our thoughts and words and hearts turn to God. Patriotism and religion are closely allied. After all, the word “Patriotism” comes from the Latin “Pater,” meaning father. Our nation is our fatherland. And God is our ultimate Father, whom we address in the words taught us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, “Our Father.”
Let us continue to bask in the glow of our patriotism, our love of our country and of the God who has given it to us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.