Living across the street from a public high school field from which the town fireworks display was launched each year made it extra special, as did the presence of many relatives and friends who would come to our house to celebrate the day (as well as my father’s and brother’s birthdays).
As a priest, furthermore, I enjoy offering the prayers of the liturgy for Independence Day. The Preface is particularly inspiring. It reads in part,
“[Christ] spoke to men a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers. His message took form in the vision of our fathers, as they fashioned a nation where men might live as one. This message lives on in our midst as a task for men today and a promise for tomorrow. We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past, and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve” (Sacramentary, Preface for Independence Day I, P82).
The blessings we give thanks for on the Fourth of July are many. I have come to realize that more than ever as I have had occasion to speak on almost every continent. We give thanks not only for material possessions and for freedom, but for the vision behind them. The vision is that “men might live as one”; the vision is that all will be welcomed, as the Statue of Liberty symbolizes; the vision is that “all are created equal”; the vision is “liberty and justice for all.”
It is a vision that we do not merely look back on, thanking God that our Founding Fathers had it. It is, rather, a vision which is “a task for today and a promise for tomorrow.”
This is why the pro-life movement is so American. It is a movement striving to achieve welcome for those of whom Roe v. Wade spoke when it said, “The word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn” (Roe at 158). Roe excluded; the pro-life movement includes. Roe made the circle of persons in America smaller; the pro-life movement seeks to expand it.
One Fourth of July, some friends of mine and I held a banner in front of my house as all the people gathered across the street for the fireworks. It said, “Pray to end Abortion.” One man, expressing agreement with the message, questioned whether it was the right setting to deliver it. “Of course it is,” I explained. “This is the day we celebrate a nation in which all are supposed to be considered equal. What better way to celebrate our freedom than to work to extend it to others?”
I pray you will all enjoy this Fourth of July. I know I will, as I watch the fireworks right from home. As I celebrate Mass that day, I will pray that this year’s celebration will renew your determination to work for justice and freedom for all unborn Americans.