Soon we will celebrate the most important day in American history. On this supremely significant day 240 years ago, fifty-six British land-owning men signed a watershed document, the Declaration of Independence, in a little-known Pennsylvania colony. And this document would pave the future of what would arguably become the greatest nation in the world, the United States of America.
How are we as Catholic Christians and Americans supposed to celebrate this great day? John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of our country, wrote this about how to celebrate the fourth of July:
“It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Well, let’s see how we’re doing in celebrating the fourth of July the way one of the greatest Founders envisioned. Parades? Check. Pomp? Check. Sports? Backyard games count, right? Check. Bonfires? Check. Illuminations? Double check. Solemn Acts of Devotions to God Almighty? Um . . . I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically live up to that calling on the Fourth of July.
But John Adams set an example for us. After everything’s said and done, we owe God more than anyone else for what occurred 240 years ago. In fact, the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence explicitly points to God as the source of our freedom:
“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.”
Not our parents, or politicians, or government, is the source of our most important rights. Only God. As the source of our rights, he deserves the highest praise, honor, and glory on Independence Day (and every day).
There are many ways to honor God on this special day. Perhaps you can read a passage from the Catholic Bible with your family to kick of the festivities, or pray a family rosary with the special intention for our political leaders and our country’s future.
Or you could pray this simple prayer for our nation written by George Washington, our first President:
“Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness and in the day of trouble, do not allow our trust in you to fall; all this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.” AMEN!
This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2012 . © The Catholic Company