|"Basilica of the National Shrine |
of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC,"
by Alchavers21 via Wikimedia Commons
In the formation of our nation, there are three groups of inhabitants: the natives; the colonists, who came principally from Spain, France, and England; and the slaves, who were brought here principally from Africa. Then, in our new nation, there are among the inhabitants citizens under George Washington, and this extended to slaves under Abraham Lincoln. Finally, there are inhabitants who are pioneers, extending frontiers, and immigrants, enriching our population with people from all races, continents, and nations. Rightly our national motto is "E Pluribus Unum": from many, one.
Some of our more celebrated Catholic brothers and sisters we remember and honor for their visible influence. In the wake of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to the nations, we honor on January 5 Elizabeth Seton, a laywoman, wife, mother, widow, and founder, and on January 6 John Neumann, an immigrant who became a priest here. Elizabeth (1774-1821), born in New York City, had a common, everyday way of following Jesus in his Church for his world. Her way was to do what the Lord wanted, as He wanted, because He wanted—very practical. Converted especially because of her attraction to Jesus in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, she started schooling Catholics and is the mother of our Catholic schools. John Neumann (1811-1860), from German-speaking Bohemia, became a priest here and later bishop of Philadelphia, and wanted to serve citizens and immigrants, especially in out-of-the-way places. He practiced and advocated daily Eucharistic adoration and the rosary. This man and woman lived in the early years of our nationhood.
We honor from before our nationhood Isaac Jogues (1607-1646) and Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) and Junipero Serra (1713-1784). Isaac, a Jesuit from France, worked among the natives and was martyred by some of them. He risked torture and death to bring Jesus in his Church to them. Kateri, a native in the New York area, was a devout virgin who braved tribal resistance to become a Catholic follower of Jesus. Junipero, a Franciscan from Spain, founded nine missions among the natives of California. He moved always forward in his drive to help these peoples.
We honor from after our nationhood Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) and Frances Cabrini (1850-1917). Augustus had parents who were slaves in Missouri, where he was baptized as an infant. He grew up in Quincy, Illinois, was ordained at St. John Lateran in Rome, eventually worked as a priest in Chicago. In spite of discrimination inside and outside the Church, he wanted to bring people, especially black, to Jesus in His Church. Frances, from Italy, founded missionary sisters to assist immigrants, often mistreated, with works of mercy in the form of schools, orphanages, and hospitals.
We honor from our own time Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Fulton Sheen (1895-1979). Dorothy cared for workers, their rights, their needs. Fulton, a priest, later a bishop, was on fire to bring Jesus in his Church to people through speaking on radio and television and teaching at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and writing many books. To these we might add Mother Angelica and Francis George.
|Image via Wikimedia Commons.|
We are thankful for the pilgrimage of four popes here: Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis. Mary Immaculate is the patron of our nation, Joseph of our immediate neighbors Canada and Mexico. Our Lady of Guadalupe is patron of America, embracing North, Central, and South America.
The Statue of Liberty is the symbol of welcoming the tired, the poor. For us as Catholics, the statue can symbolize Mary Immaculate, our humble and merciful Mother, welcoming and protecting us. She holds the torch of liberty for communion, the way of us brothers and sisters to be the family of friends of her and Joseph and their and our Jesus.