Faith On The Fourth

This beautiful Fourth of July morning, I went for a run. For reasons I can’t explain, my feet steered me in the direction of my alma mater, St. Norbert College in De Pere. I have never run that direction before; I have my usual route. But this morning, I found myself crossing the bridge over the Fox River and ended up running through campus. I paused long enough to soak in the beauty of my school, which helped form me in ways I really didn’t appreciate until I was older. Campus has changed a lot in the 17 years since graduation, but one constant is a picturesque building, Main Hall. I felt compelled to take a few pictures at that moment, and noticed that lining the walkway from the street to Main Hall, were lampposts with banners on them. As I wandered from sign to sign, reading the words and reflecting, I felt this huge surge of patriotism come crashing over me. My Catholic liberal arts school’s message relates so much to our nation’s happenings right now.

I realize and appreciate the importance of separation of church and state. Our nation is not a one-size-fits all when it comes to faith. But marrying the lesson from my school up to how we should be acting as citizens in the United States today, well, I can’t help but feel inspired that if we could all consider this approach, we would pull ourselves out of this abyss of vitriol and division we are currently trapped in.

ACTIO: A commitment to self-emptying service to others
What a gift it is to help those in need. Every act of kindness, no matter how small, has the ability to start a chain reaction, just like the ripples in a pond when you throw in a pebble. They reach outward, going and going, until they disappear into the whole. How impactful, how powerful it would be if we would choose give of ourselves in any way possible. The beauty in this is that no good deed truly goes unrewarded. As Emerson noted, “It’s one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” We should all make a decision to act in ways that benefit others and see the wonderful good it can accomplish.

CONTEMPLATIO: A deeper way of seeing into the inside of everything
We travel through life forming opinions in so many ways….our upbringing, our faith, our gender, our race, our socioeconomic status. All of these outside forces form our lens through which we see our world, and we act according to this lens. Unfortunately, it can get us stuck in a biased place and we then miss out on the rainbow of differences in the thought prism. Taking time to reflect, to contemplate, to learn about all sides of an issue through the lenses of others, I believe would help set our country on a path to healing the divide. You may have been raised to believe 6+4=10. Imagine seeking and finding out that 3+7 also equals 10. You can get to the same answers in different ways from another, and both be correct. If we would see things more deeply, more openly, we’d have more robust discussion and problem solving capabilities. Our elected leaders would benefit from Contemplatio. But in the meantime, we as general citizens can adopt this way of thinking and start meaningful conversations.

COMMUNIO: Living in a relationship from and with God in community
Fully understanding and recognizing that we have so many varying faiths in our nation, you may say God, Yahweh, Allah, Krishna, or you may believe in the Jesus fish with the feet growing out of it. Regardless, finding your personal faith, developing a relationship with that faith, and living the tenets of that faith into the community would be a beautiful way to enhance our diversity, but also bring our community as a whole together. The foundation of most major faiths is rooted in love and kindness. Having a strong tie to faith, in whatever form you choose, will serve to bring more love and kindness to our country in a time where it is needed now more than ever.

DOCERE VERBO ET EXEMPLO: Teach by word and example
It seems to me these days that we are seeing an overabundance of “Do as I say, not as I do” coming from our elected officials. While the likelihood of them changing their behavior is slight, we have the responsibility and opportunity to walk the walk AND talk the talk. As parents and as members of various communities — neighborhoods, work, church, whatever it may be, we can use our environment as a platform to send a positive message and set an example for others.

These above tenets, while rooted in a Catholic institution, hit me as I read them. Not just as a Catholic, but as a patriot who loves her country on the Fourth of July, and every day of the year. It’s been a very tenuous couple of years, watching America become more divided, and it’s easily excusable to feel discouraged by the current state. But as I was running back home, through a historic neighborhood on a beautiful tree lined street, I felt an incredible sense of optimism. I passed American flags prominently displayed in windows and on porches. I saw white picket fences and smelled the scent of fresh bread wafting in the air from the bakery a few blocks over. A man working on a car in his driveway and “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp playing on the radio. Ain’t that America. Beautiful America. All the reasons in the world to feel hopeful. If we can adopt/adapt some of these tenets, perhaps We The People can lead the way back to everything that makes us a positive example for the rest of the world.

Let’s make a pledge to ignite our patriotism along with the fireworks tonight. Happy Independence Day to all.

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