User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes

Sunday, July 4, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).

On July 4, Pope Benedict won’t be celebrating Independence Day, of course — he’ll be celebrating the end of the Holy Year dedicated to the “Pope of Opposite Land.”

Until August, we’re celebrating the Celestine Year, the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Celestine V.

Pope Celestine was born a farmer but was raised as an intellectual because his mother wanted that. He chose to be a Benedictine hermit but ended up becoming a religious founder. In 1292, when Pope Nicholas IV died, the monk wrote an insistent letter to the cardinals at the Vatican demanding that a new pope be elected right away. They responded by electing him.

He did a few significant things in his papacy, which lasted two years: First, he made it harder to elect new popes. Then he made it possible for popes to resign. Then he resigned. Oh, and one other thing, again very much opposite of his other actions: This man whose ascetic practices were called shocking and extreme made the anniversary of his election day an indulgenced holy day.

Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Sulmona, Italy, by helicopter to pray before Pope St. Celestine V’s relics.

Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

Our Take
When Pope Benedict XVI visited America in 2008, he told us what he thought of us. Here are several reasons the Pope thinks America is great, all worth remembering this Independence Day:

1. America is great because it connects freedom with faith.
Said the Pope at the White House in 2008: “From the dawn of the republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. … President Washington expressed in his farewell address that religion and morality represent ‘indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.”

The lesson for us: Evangelization is patriotic. Promote Mass, confession, prayer and service for a stronger America.

2. America is great because it connects freedom with virtues.
“Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility,” the Pope said. “The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate.”

The lesson for us: To build America’s future, we have to be the kind of people and raise the kind of children who center their lives on virtues and responsibilities.

3. America is great because it has welcomed immigrants.
“Brother bishops,” he said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, “I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations,” he said, then quoted the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ These are the people whom America has made her own.”

The lesson for us: We should do what America has done for centuries — teach Americans to be American, both those born here and those born elsewhere.

4. America is great because it has applied its entrepreneurial mindset to the Church’s life.
“We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, health-care and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land,” he said at Yankee Stadium. “We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him.”

Our lesson: We should take that same American spirit and apply it to the Church in our own day.

5. He pointed out that Catholics can play a key policy role in a democracy like America.
“In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society,” he said. “Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.”

Our lesson: Politics isn’t everything, but it is a key part of our life as Christians.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.