'We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident'

By Chris Sparks

We’re all supposed to be better than this.

The United States of America has, from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence on to the present day, been a nation whose first principles are much better than the present state of the nation.

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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …

These words affirm the universal dignity and fundamental equal rights of all humanity, rather like St. Paul did in his letter to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). The nation has struggled ever since to come anywhere close to living up to them.

From the time of the founding, our vision of what our nation should be like, of who our neighbors are, and of our obligations to each other has been much higher, much better than we were. That has not changed.

And thank God for that.

Thank God that we have always aspired as a nation to be better, that our ideals have always been higher, better, nobler than any moment in American history.

Thank God that Americans, like Catholics as a whole, subscribe to the natural law, to the objective morality writ into human hearts, in conscience and truth.

Thank God that we have never lowered our highest ideals to accommodate our lowest actions. The goals of the preamble of the Constitution have always indicated the path forward for the government of the United States:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Our elected officials, federal officials, and our military folks take oaths to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That includes this high-minded preamble, one with goals to be pursued, not tasks already accomplished. Indeed, the work of government will not end until the end of the world, until the final triumph of good over evil, until the marriage of Heaven and earth.

So the incredible violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, was on one level no surprise. Fallen human nature has always led to that sort of destructiveness, to a casual assault on fundamental institutions, on our high ideals of peace and order.

On the other hand, there was something ominous, something shocking about it. For all the extraordinary scenes in the history of American public life, there was something outstanding about the assault on the Capitol. Congress was intended by the Founders to be in a sense the preeminent branch of the three branches of government. It’s the place where the country is represented most thoroughly at the federal level, and the heart of the sort of debate and voting that’s at the core of our democratic republic. The Capitol, of all places, ought never to have its orderly functioning disrupted.

It is appropriate, then, to recognize that we have an obligation as Catholic Christians to take the lead in peacemaking, in speaking truth in love, and in interceding for our country. Saint Faustina was a model of such patriotic prayer, making a number of different novenas or sacrifices for her country.

For example:

… After a short time, I saw the Mother of God, unspeakably beautiful. She said to me, "My daughter, what I demand from you is prayer, prayer, and once again prayer, for the world and especially for your country. For nine days receive Holy Communion in atonement and unite yourself closely to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During these nine days you will stand before God as an offering; always and everywhere, at all times and places, day or night, whenever you wake up, pray in the spirit. In spirit, one can always remain in prayer." (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 325)

August 22. This morning Saint Barbara, Virgin, visited me and recommended that I offer Holy Communion for nine days on behalf of my country and thus appease God’s anger … (Diary, 1251)

We would be wise to do something similar. We have Our Lady’s call at Fatima to pray the Rosary daily for peace in the world. If we haven’t already taken that devotion up, now’s the right time to start. We should be praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for our country and ourselves, asking God’s mercy for all the times in which we individually and as a country have not lived up to the high ideals of our faith and our founding documents. We need the grace of God and penance in order to expunge the effects of sin from our world. There’ve been plenty of sins by generations past and our own generation, many of which continue to have an impact on our world today. It’s time and past for faithful Catholics to make reparation for these evils.

We have our work cut out for us. Let us pray.

Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and Terror of Demons, pray for us.

All you saints and martyrs of America, pray for us.

May God bless America.

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

Photo by Cameron Smith on Unsplash.

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