In just a few days we’ll celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation, Independence Day, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We are rightly proud to be Americans. Our forefathers declared their independence from the oppressive government of England, fought to defend that independence, and set up a government that has, in large part, preserved the liberties they fought for through these past 243 years. We also recognize that the United States isn’t perfect. In our history, we can point to slavery, the internment of the Japanese during World War II, and other episodes as points of shame, and today we still fight against the scourge of abortion, racism, and violence.
Patriotism is a form of love, and love is not made up of affectionate feelings. Love can produce good and affectionate feelings, but that’s not what love is. Love means a firm commitment to seek the good of another, not counting the cost to yourself. Love must be grounded in truth, so that it can lead to self-giving and self-sacrifice. Patriotism is the love of our country; so, let us be grateful for the freedom and prosperity that is ours, and ask how we may insure that freedom and prosperity for future generations.
The virtue of patriotism doesn’t mean that we blindly proclaim the glory of our homeland, but that, out of love for our homeland and fellow citizens, we work tirelessly to defend her and help her to grow in virtue. A patriot defends his country from aggression and all those who seek to harm it. We have a long history of patriots and heroes who have taken up arms to defend this country, and some of their finest moments have come at the times of greatest danger. We must remember to pray for everyone who’s risked or given life or limb in our defense.
The virtue of patriotism also makes us want to help our country to grow in virtue. If we think that the United States is already perfect, the chosen land, the city on a hill, then we might blind ourselves to its problems. We can admit the weaknesses of our country while still loving it, and then we can work to improve them. We can pray for our neighbors, our country, our elected officials, and all those who work for the government. We can pay attention to what’s happening in politics and stay informed, so that we can be informed voters, not voting just for what’s best for ourselves, but for the country.
The point is that if we love our country in her greatness and in her best moments, then we must love her more in her weakness and sin; we must love her enough to see her weakness and do something about it.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.