The gift of freedom to always be protected

Published: July 2, 2024

"We pray O God of might, wisdom and justice, through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted and judgment decreed, assist with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy and by restraining vice and immorality."  — Excerpt from "Prayer for Our Government" by Archbishop John Carroll, first bishop appointed to United States in 1791

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and issued a Declaration of Independence, announcing "that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." The colonists fought Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War and eventually won independence to form our nation. Each year, we celebrate this independence on July 4.

In addition to fireworks and picnics, this is a good day to thank God for our freedom because, as our Declaration of Independence explains, he is the author of it. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Pope Francis affirmed these truths during his talk on religious liberty in Independence Mall in Philadelphia on Sept. 26, 2015. "Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity," he said. "May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself."

While Independence Day is a national holiday, the Catholic Church in the United States also recognizes it as an optional memorial, explains My Catholic Life. "On this day, we are called to pray for our country but also urged to exhibit 'solemn reverence' for the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this remarkable nation. Throughout world history, the freedom to worship according to one’s conscience has seldom been codified into law."

Living up to the founding principles of our nation is a work in progress but preserving religious freedom is vital to achieving this goal. "In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religious traditions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and the rights of others," Pope Francis added.

Independence Day Prayer

Prayer courtesy of "Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, Revised Edition" from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

God, source of all freedom,
this day is bright with the memory
of those who declared that life and liberty
are your gift to every human being.

Help us to continue a good work begun long ago.
Make our vision clear and our will strong:
that only in human solidarity will we find liberty,
and justice only in the honor that belongs
to every life on earth.

Turn our hearts toward the family of nations:
to understand the ways of others,
to offer friendship,
and to find safety only in the common good of all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.