God mend thine ev’ry flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law! — Katharine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful
You might think of America’s national hymn, “America the Beautiful” as a poetic look at the nation’s landscapes but it’s actually a patriotic cry from the heart to live up to God’s expectations. For this democratic nation, which has enjoyed the blessings of heaven like no other in the history of the world, there is a divine debt to be paid. Yet there is little self-control going on in America today, and increasingly laws are working against liberty.
We may say “God Bless America,” but how can He? For more than 50 years America has been siphoning off her spiritual depths. What was once a slow leak has become a cataract and the foul sprays of the cascade are drenching every aspect of our culture with secular humanism. How can God bless an America that refuses His benediction?
Historians will say the great democratic experiment has always existed in a tension of wills, of opposing opinions and interests, and that such give-and-take is the source of freedom’s strength. But Christ tells us that He is the source of our strength, not political or moral ideologies. And if there’s one Person Who has been banned from the “give-and-take” of national debate, it’s Christ. Catholics, like no other demographic group in America, have been shut out of the political forum.
The men and women who made this democracy possible were people whose Christian faith was the source of their strength. No reasonable person can deny that members of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia risked their lives and their families’ lives for a cause that was more than political or socio-economic. Their courage and intellects were fed by Christian understanding. The founders and early patriots believed in the freedom of each person because they embraced the Christian doctrine that each is made in God’s image and therefore deserving of inalienable rights. Despite revisionist historians, we know this to be the truth through original documents and personal letters.
That can no longer be said of Americans or their nation. We make it clear through our legislation, through our public educational system, through our economic priorities, and through our individual lifestyle choices, that our values as a society no longer need or desire God’s influence or protection.
Above all else, we reject God’s blessings when we kill unborn and partially born babies, and protect such murders with a warped judicial stance. With the holocaust of abortion, 43 million lives since 1973, our nation has accepted the ultimate lie and has committed the most heinous offense. Without reversal, America will have signed its own death warrant.
Regarding America’s acceptance of abortion, the late Catholic apologist Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “If we don’t stop the destruction of life, we’ll come to midnight. That is nuclear war, in which there will be a total disregard for life.”
This may sound an ominous message but these are dark times and, like “America the Beautiful,” rallying cries need to be heard above the din of television, video games, Hollywood scandals, and political candidates. Strength must be given to the faithful as they kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration, demonstrate in front of abortion mills, sacrifice and do penance for sins. Leadership must be given by the Church and Her bishops to those who are questioning moral certitudes, who will vote in public elections come November, and who are raising the next generation of Americans.
We need to be reminded that America is consecrated to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The U.S. bishops made this so during a 2006 ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. By definition, a consecration occurs in order to set aside something for a sacred purpose, in this case our beloved nation and by extension each one of us. Consecration gives us individually and as a nation the ability to pursue virtue and, through God’s blessings, practice holiness.
During the consecration ceremony Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Andrew Apostoli discussed how we can seek God’s blessings for America. “We need the protection of Mary. We need her to put her mantle around our country,” he said. The Mother of God has always assisted in the role of redemption, her faith set Jesus’ ministry in motion as she faithfully followed the path to the cross. “She continues to obtain graces for us, and we need grace to do what she last says in Scripture: ‘Do whatever he tells you,'” said Fr. Apostoli.
There can be no justice, social or otherwise, without Christ. All rights and protection spring from the King of Justice Himself. To abandon Him is to shift the foundation of democracy from its origins to the whims of men. The great democratic experiment began in the hearts of men through the mercy of God and it requires His blessings to survive.
In a Middle Tennessee Poll of Americans taken in 2002, people were asked what the sentiment “God Bless America” meant to them. More than one-third said the phrase was primarily patriotic while one-fourth said it was a religious statement. Nearly one in 10 said they had no idea what it meant. Some said it is a plea for God to save the American economy; others said it is a plea for protection from enemies. Only one in five respondents said that when a politician uses the phrase, it’s a statement of religious conviction.
It’s clear to many Americans, including those who seek to lead our nation, that “God bless America” has become a subjective — and safe — statement to make in public. It has escaped the fate of most religious-toned sentiments because it’s been stripped of its religiosity. We need to remind ourselves and others of its objective and true meaning.
In order for God to bless America we must be in a relationship with Him. Receiving blessings means receiving graces through the Holy Spirit, and the first work of such grace is conversion through the repentance of our sins (CCC 1989). “Moved by grace, mankind turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The result is an outpouring of God’s blessings which sanctify and renew the interior of each individual.
Only then can we say in confidence, “God bless America” and know that He will.