US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Proud to be an American Catholic

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To guest blogger Stephanie Niedringhaus, being an American Catholic means embracing a "We the people" approach to church and standing up for the ideals of justice in our country and church.

Guest blog post by Stephanie Niedringhaus

Two days ago, our homily at Sunday Mass focused on the Declaration of Independence. Reminding us of much of the actual text—including the little-read and often-forgotten list of grievances—the priest commented on the real story of our country’s founding, when, for example, slavery existed and women couldn’t vote, and how the grievances could also apply to certain aspects of the current U.S. reality.

And then yesterday, on the Fourth of July, I sat in the midst of a cheering crowd decked out mostly in red, white and blue as we listened to patriotic music and marveled at the cascades of light and color in our thrilling fireworks display.

I am proud to be part of both worlds. As a Catholic, I am called to consider the moral implications of my actions and those of people who represent me. As an American, I am called to live out our democratic ideals—to vote for candidates who best reflect my moral convictions and to inform our elected officials about how they can best serve the common good.

But my pride goes even deeper than that. In June, a large group of Catholics gathered in Detroit at the convention of the American Catholic Council. While I was unable to be present, I was grateful that I knew quite a number of people who were there, which enabled me to receive firsthand reports. These were American Catholics who had grown up in a democratic society in which there was freedom to question practices that did not conform to their democratic ideals. The “Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” endorsed by the gathering even reflected some of the language (“Bill of Rights”) and values that represent the best of our nation.

I revere the beauty and depth of my Catholic heritage. At the same time, I firmly believe that “We the People” are the church. When I see Catholics in the United States (and elsewhere) standing up to oppose actions and rules they consider unjust, I am filled with hope.

The U.S. flag and Renaissance magnificence of St. Peter’s in Rome may be just symbols, but they gladden my heart and inspire me to live out the ideals of my faith and my country.

Guest blogger Stephanie Niedringhaus is the Communications Coordinator for NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

In honor of our country's official birthday, we're asking U.S. Catholic friends and readers what's unique about being an American Catholic. To submit your answer (about 200-600 words), e-mail by July 6.

 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.