VIRTUOUS CHRISTIANS AND EXCELLENT CITIZENS

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Greetings my brothers and sisters,

November is one of the months in which we hold elections here in the United States of America. Casting ballots is an important right, duty and responsibility of we who are citizens. As faithful American citizens, we will do our part this coming November 8.

In his Fourth Pastoral Letter as bishop of Acqui, St. Joseph Marello wrote to Christian parents about their duty to educate their children in the Christian faith. At the beginning of this important letter he wrote:

you owe your children the instruction that places them on the right path and makes them virtuous Christians and excellent citizens…that instruction which is the foundation of all others, and which by natural and divine law you, fathers and mothers, must impart to your children from their most tender age

St. Marello recognizes and wishes to impose on Christian parents that being “excellent citizens” is part and parcel of being “virtuous Christians”. These are not opposed to each other but come from that same “instruction which is the foundation of all others”, which, of course, is divine revelation.

Christian parents should… instruct from an early age their children in the first truths and the principal mysteries of our Holy Faith; to teach them to love God above all else.

For Bishop Marello, the Holy Faith was to be the guiding principle of life in all areas: spiritual, physical, social and, yes, political.

For some in the United States, this would seem to interfere with the principle of the separation of Church and State. This, however, is a misreading of what was intended by that principle, that is, that the State is not to mandate a particular religion to follow, not that faith and government should have no relationship at all! After all, the Declaration of Independence states very clearly that the rights which we base our freedom, and so our state, on are God given. We cannot hope to have a just and good state if we do not follow the principles which God has given to us. God is the source of true justice and goodness, after all.

What this implies for us as Christians is that, in order to be excellent citizens, we must be led by the principles of our Christian faith, and most particularly the love of God and neighbor. If a political principle, for instance, implies that some people are more equal than others, then we must reject that principle. Unfortunately, some politicians do not subscribe to this idea and seek to differentiate between what he/she believes personally and what he/she promotes politically. This political “schizophrenia” is too common in our country, particularly among some  Catholic politicians.

In discerning our vocation, we must keep this in mind: we must be fully active in our responsibilities, duties and rights as citizens of the USA and we must be guided by our Christian faith in this. This will, at times, lead us to go against the popular current and cause others to denounce us as not “true Americans”. We can rest assured, however, that when we are led by the God who created and saved us, we are the ones who are truly promoting the common good and that we are being both virtuous Christians and excellent citizens.

St. Joseph, educator of Jesus, pray for us.

Fr. Brian, OSJ

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