Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

In my previous (July 1) column in Catholic Times I asked if the United States of America was a great nation or simply a powerful country. I concluded by saying that "I remain hopeful that our nation can still live up to its potential for greatness." I would like to continue that theme further today.

At times in the past I have criticized some of the stories that have appeared in the secular media. In fairness, I wish also to point out some articles from the secular media that are very helpful and constructive. One such item was the "My View" column in the Beliefs section of The State Journal-Register (Springfield) on July 7, by Robert Mann, managing editor of eChristianNews.com, entitled, "U.S. lacks credibility of culture."

In his column about the challenges that Christian missionaries face in Muslim countries, Mann wrote that "the primary affront to Muslims around the world was not Christianity, but the cultural malaise that was exported by the United States. In particular, the moral bankruptcy of the entertainment industry had permanently tainted the nation, its citizens and their beliefs. ... If the United States was truly dedicated to Christian charity and Christian values, it would not stand as such a moral offense to citizens of Islamic countries."

This is an important point about the perception of our country. Too many people around the world judge America only by the slime that slithers out of Hollywood because that is all they see. Unfortunately they do not see and do not know the many devout, God-fearing people across our nation who go to church, synagogue or mosque, live morally upright lives and give selflessly of themselves to help others.

Columnist Peggy Noonan provides an upbeat assessment of our nation from another perspective in the July 7 issue of The Wall Street Journal. She wrote, "There's something Haley Barbour reminded me of called the Gate Rule. The former Mississippi governor said it's the first thing you should think of when you think about immigration. People are either lined up at the gate trying to get out of a country, or lined up trying to get in. It says something about the health of a nation when they're lined up to get in, as they are, still, with America. It says, of course, that compared with the rest of the world, America's economy isn't in such bad shape. But it says more than that. People don't want to come to a place when they know they'll be treated badly. They don't want to call your home their home unless you know you'll make room for them in more than economic ways."

The friendliness and openness of our people help to make the United States of America a great nation. Somehow even when immigrants retain their ethnic customs, they find a way to become part of America and fit into a common culture. My great-grandparents came from Poland. Even as a fourth-generation Polish-American, I grew up in a neighborhood and in a parish where many people still spoke the Polish language, sang Polish songs and ate Polish food. Yet there was no contradiction for us to fly the stars and stripes on American holidays, listen to American music and eat hot dogs at the ballpark while enjoying America's national pastime.

These two columns mentioned earlier, one by Robert Mann and the other by Peggy Noonan, remind us of some essentials that are necessary for the United States to be a great nation not only from our own perspective, but in the eyes of the world. We Americans need to be people whose faith in God and adherence to his commandments are visible in action, not for the sake of boastful pride, but as a public witness of our values.

We need to communicate and live these values in such a way that others will see that the United States of America is a great place to be, where people are not lined up at the gate trying to get out, but lined up trying to get in.

May God give us this grace. Amen.