Reflection for 7-4-21
“Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
These words from our National Anthem, which were written from a boat in the Patapsco River during the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, have a special place in the hearts of Marylanders. And, as Marylanders, we also have the distinction of living in the only American colony that was founded by a Catholic (Lord Baltimore) for Catholics who were trying to escape religious persecution elsewhere. Despite this fact, religious persecution still found its way to Maryland; and for a time, it was illegal to practice Catholicism in the colony.
Of course, we all know the rest of the story: the Revolutionary War led to the establishment of the United States of America. The Constitution, with its Bill of Rights, was created for the governance of the country and protection of its citizens. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” With these words, the founding fathers granted freedom of religion to all citizens.
Even though the Constitution allows for the free exercise of religion, misunderstanding and misinformation concerning certain religions (such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) result in members of those religions being mistreated by some of their fellow Americans.
As Catholics, we no longer need to worry about practicing our faith in secret or being arrested if we are caught attending Mass. In fact, we have grown so accustomed to being freely able to practice our faith that we may even take it for granted. However, as former victims of religious persecution, we can identify with those who are suffering similar circumstances today.
So, as we celebrate the founding of our nation, let each of us commit ourselves to the guarantee of religious freedom for our brothers and sisters of all faiths; and summon the bravery to stand up for what we believe in and the rights of others to do likewise.
Yes, the star-spangled banner yet waves; but it’s up to us to make sure that our country remains “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”