America. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Many of us can recount the stories of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving their countries, families and everything they knew in hopes of a better life. Traveling to America, escaping persecution and political unrest in search of freedom. Longing to start a new life, to being again.
Often I can find myself complacent, taking for granted the freedoms my relatives left everything in search for and that I now daily enjoy. Comfortable with all of the opportunities, education chooses for my children and the ability to pray and worship freely without fear. Every year though, around the 4th of July I find myself reflecting and being reminded of what a great privilege it is to live in America.
I have done mission work in South America and spent time in Africa. I have seen extreme poverty. People without clean water to drink, nothing more than thatched branches for a roof and children wandering the streets looking for food. A vicious cycle so many people are born into and for the majority of them they are never able to escape.
Christian persecution continues in ways we have only been exposed to in the news. People risking their lives to go to Mass, to receive the Eucharist and the Sacraments. It is so much more than a headline. All we have to do is look at the pictures and faces of the 48 Catholics who were martyred in 2010 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.
We are able to attend Mass freely and without fear, weekly even daily by just getting in our car and driving to a Church of our choice. For some it is not that easy. They worship in secret, hidden and in hopes they are not found. While others may only be able to receive the Eucharist once or twice a year, walking miles upon miles to do so.
In some countries so much of people’s lives are dictated by a government who oppresses them and tries to control what Church they attend and how many children they have. For decades anyone who violated China’s One Child Policy faced gruesome and horrific consequences, now as of May they are allowed a limit of three children.
None of us chose where to be born, each of us set in a specific place and space in time. What an honor, privilege and great responsibility we have. In between the fireworks, swimming and burgers let us take a moment to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy. To say a prayer for those souls who have fought bravely to protect them and for the countless people who daily face oppression. Let us work tirelessly and endlessly to preserve what Congress declared on July 4, 1776 in the Declaration of Independence.
“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.”