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It’s a Grand Old Flag

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June 25, 2012

By Jeanne Hunt

It’s time to watch fireworks, eat Grandma’s potato salad and hoist the American flag. It’s the middle of summer, and we Americans are celebrating the Fourth of July. Memories of other July 4ths flood our consciousness: picnic tables loaded with relatives and great food, neighborhood parades, and spectacular fireworks displays that cap a day of fun outdoors.


In the midst of it all we find an internationally recognized symbol of freedom: the stars and stripes. We know in our hearts as we enjoy the annual celebration that men and women have died for what that flag stands for. We know that our flag is a sacred symbol much like a cross or a church steeple and its cloth holds an unspoken meaning. It proclaims liberty and justice for all and reminds us that the grand old flag has been defended and stills waves because those that went before us loved and honored it.


Like many other Americans, I sometimes take for granted this symbol — the freedom all of us enjoy, the pleasure of living in a country that upholds the good and moral life — and figure it will always be there.


This was a natural presumption of mine until recently, when I toured a European socialist country. I saw there what life would be like without the values of Old Glory: limited medical care options; rationing of resources; national programs that encourage abortion,


euthanasia and birth control; little or no presence of religious institutions and churches.
I began to yearn to see the American flag. I think I even missed it. Whenever I saw a cluster of European flags at state buildings, I looked to find her, and she was obviously missing. It was then that I wanted to come home. Like a self-righteous teenager who thinks that she knows more than her parents, I realized that the flag meant something precious to me and that our forefathers had it right.


As Catholic Americans, we are doubly blessed: we worship in a graced faith tradition, and we live in a land that allows us to prosper in the values of that faith. The present currents of political ideologies, however, threaten our Catholic values, and we need to do something to protect what is precious to us.


As we prepare for the fall elections, we are called to be responsible voters. The U.S. bishops urge and encourage us to practice faithful citizenship — to be faithful to our Catholic faith when we decide yea or nay when casting our ballots. To be a faithful citizen, we need to learn as much as we can about our choices for candidates and about the issues and then vote for what is right and just.


This may not, and most likely, will not be easy, and may even mean that we stand alone and are ridiculed for our opinions. To help us form our opinions and vote wisely, the U.S. bishops crafted a teaching document called “Faithful Citizenship” that is worth reading. It brings into focus just what are moral, just and ethical positions for Catholics.


On this Fourth of July, as we sing “She’s a grand old flag. She’s a high flying flag…,” let’s remember that this national symbol is precious to all of us Catholic Americans. May we be faithful citizens as we vote to insure that what our flag stands for may long endure.


Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.

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