US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Glory belongs to God alone--not your country

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Julia Smucker says she's an orthodox Catholic: She gives glory first to God alone, despite the American ideals that challenge this commitment.

Guest blog post by Julia Smucker

The word orthodoxy, according to standard usage, is commonly understood to mean believing in the right things.  Far be it from me, a linguist, to call this standard definition incorrect; yet, as a would-be theologian, I would like to suggest an additional meaning with attention to the Greek root doxa, meaning “glory.” It is also the act of giving glory where it belongs—and nowhere else.

It is orthodoxy in this sense that thoroughly permeates the liturgy of the Mass. It is there in the ancient song of “Glory to God,” as we sing, “For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ.” 

It is there in the creed (where, indeed, the two definitions of orthodoxy intersect), as we proclaim our belief in one God, Father Almighty and creator of all; one Lord, Christ Incarnate whose kingdom will have no end; one Spirit, who gives life and speaks through prophets; one church that sometimes manages, by the grace of God, to get the message right. 

It is there as we dare to pray the words of our Lord, for the coming kingdom, for heaven to be realized on earth, for the daily bread we need not hoard, for forgiveness with a startling condition—as we forgive—acknowledging the holiness of the only one to whom belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever.

And it is there in what may be the most subversive thing we do as Catholics: receiving the Eucharist. A wise priest once gave the profound instruction in a homily at Mass to “be Eucharist in the world.” The Eucharist is a gift that calls us to give of ourselves, that commits us to become what we receive: the presence of Christ.  It is only by his presence, which draws us to himself and seals us in communion with each other and with the entire church in all nations and all times, that we can resist the pervasive temptations to give glory where it does not belong—to false gods of national interest, self-interest, or the “Almighty Dollar.”

This is why I am resolutely proud (if pride can ever legitimately be called a virtue) to be Catholic in America. I am proud to profess that although surrounded by demands made on my loyalty by the gods of mammon, America-first exceptionalism, and me-first individualism, my first and highest allegiance is to a holier Trinity, and to the church universal which transcends all national borders—and, by extension, to honoring the intrinsic dignity that the church solidly proclaims to be present in all bearers of God’s image, the world over.

Julia Smucker is an M.A. student at Saint John's School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota.

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Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.