On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers in Philadelphia signed the Declaration of Independence and brought into being this marvelous reality that we call the United States of America. The final words of that document declare that for the support of their declaration and their bringing into being a new nation, they mutually pledge their lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor.
I wonder if they would have used those words had they been writing that document today. I refer to the words “sacred honor.” “Sacred” has to do with God and that which is holy. And honor has to do with what is most noble, most valuable, most elevated in the human condition. There are many reasons for us to doubt that many Americans today think much about the sacred, or about their own honor, or lack thereof. I don’t want to focus upon these negatives today, but rather to remind you that, apart from life itself, this nation of ours is probably the most precious gift that God gives us in the natural order.
In the summer of 1965, I spent about six weeks with our Dominican priests and brothers at their priory in Quebec City, Canada. I went there to study French at Laval University since I had been assigned to teach French at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, and needed more accreditation in that language. One of our teachers of French composition gave us an assignment: we were to write in French an essay on “what my country means to me.” Most of us in the class were Americans, and the Fourth of July was approaching. I discovered by writing that composition that when thinking about some topic and using pen and paper to record my thoughts, I do better than if I just think about it without jotting down my ideas. So I suggest to you today to think seriously about what your country, and your citizenship and residence in it, mean to you. We must be grateful to God for his gifts to us. And the greater the gift, the more grateful we should be. We could have been born into a family in Mongolia, or Uganda, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. But we were born here. And we were born into a Christian and Catholic family. Gifts heaped upon gifts. The inexhaustible generosity of God to us.
One stanza of the patriotic hymn, “America the Beautiful” says this: “America, America, God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control; thy liberty in law.” Sacred and honorable sentiments. Let us live according to them. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago