Chaplain's column from the December 2016 bulletin, online now.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday that recalls the Pilgrims who sailed from the old world to the new world on the Mayflower around 1620. These devout Christians were Protestants seeking to live their faith as their consciences directed them, formed primarily by the Bible.
Too often in the old world of Europe, Catholic and Protestant kings and leaders alike would oppress those who chose not to believe the entirety of what their leaders believed. Instead of entering into dialogue centered on the Natural Law, the Ten Commandments and Jesus Christ and his Beatitudes, these various factions began to fight and seek political hegemony.
This occurred in Catholic Europe before the Protestant Reformation of 1517, and at times “Catholic” emperors would imprison or exile Popes and Bishops. Some people truly wanted to live the Christian life different from the prevailing culture, but instead of leaving their culture they became salt and light for their culture.
The most prominent figure is St. Francis of Assisi. He found common ground with most people based on the Ten Commandments and the person of Jesus Christ, but he lived out the Beatitudes with a new dynamism. His religious order attracted lay people to this spirituality and a Third Order for lay people continues today. There are many other religious communities that have different charisms that have provided salt and light for our flagging Christian culture.
Another example of pluralism within Catholicism is the fact that there are over twenty different Catholic Rites. We belong to the Latin Rite, but there are the Eastern Catholic Rites, including the Byzantine Rite, Coptic Rite and Marionite Rite. Each Catholic Rite has the same essential beliefs, elements and rituals, but different ways of expressing them and governing them on a local level. However, all of them are united to the Pope.
“E PLURIBUS UNUM” is minted on our money to remind we Americans that “from many, one” is a reality that we must live to flourish. Also written on our money “IN GOD WE TRUST”, our National motto, to remind us from whom we came, and to whom we are ultimately accountable.
Most everyone knows that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, but many do not know that he was a devout Catholic and had the youngest ship hands pray the “Ave Maria” (Hail, Mary) every half hour since they were in charge of keeping time with the hour glass.
Hennepin County, MN; Marquette, MI; Joliet, Illinois; these names have memorialized Catholics like Fr. Hennepin who named the St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, and Fr. Marquette and fellow explorer Louis Joliet who explored the upper Mississippi River.
George Calvert, a convert to Catholicism, was the first Lord Baltimore who founded a new colony which he named “Maryland”, not after the reigning earthly queen, but after the Queen of Heaven. His son, Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore established it and in 1649 the State passed Lord Baltimore’s famous Toleration Act, which guaranteed all colonists religious freedom. There were moves by opponents to keep Catholics from political office, but the truth prevailed. For this heritage, let us be vigilant and thankful to God. God bless America and our Catholic Church.
Fr. Thomas McCabe