Yesterday, Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a join session of Congress. It began with Francis addressing not only those in Congress but all citizens in the United States and we all have a mission of personal and social responsibility. The Pope then reminded the politicians that they are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good. The biggest thing that Pope Francis wants to emerge from his visit is a dialogue with all of us the working class American, the Elderly, the young. He starts this by looking through the lives of four great American, three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.
Abraham Lincoln: The famed Republican from Illinois, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Pope Francis tells us that building this future requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity. Francis then says that the only response to all the violence and hatred in the world is not through more violence and hatred but our response should be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. This can be done by working to move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. As good old Shepard Smith from Fox News pointed out the care for the common good of all shouldn’t be a political issue.
Martin Luther King: The dreamer from Atlanta, who longed for full civil and political right for African Americas. Francis notes that America is still a place where people have dreams. The Pope reminds us that most of us are all immigrants and notes of the tremendous violations of the rights of those natives was not always. It wasn’t the best way forward and it is in this section that Francis quotes the Golden Rule “Do unto others and we would like to be done unto us” and says that this is how we should be when greeting our neighbors where ever they come from. Since all life is sacred all life should be treated the same, it is a simple idea and Francis goes so far as to say that we should get rid of the Death Penalty.
Dorothy Day: The social activist from New York who, founded the Catholic Worker Movement. This section starts by talking about wealth and move into the care of creation. It’s not that money is necessarily bad but the fact that extreme poverty and hunger still exist in the world. Francis here quotes his Encyclical Laudato Si about how we should care for all creation.
Thomas Merton: The mystic from Kentucky, who is a source of spiritual inspiration was a man of dialogue between religions and people. Francis take Merton’s dialogues and mentions about the relationship between Cuba and the United States is being thawed and it should create new opportunities for all people. The Pope says that it is his duty to build bridges and to help all people, in any way possible, to do the same. This section ends with talking about the end of all armed conflicts around the world.
Pope Francis talks a little about the World Meeting of the Family and how the family is an essential aspect in the building of this nation. Francis especially wants us to look at the young who have many options set before them but that culture isn’t really orientated for family life. The Pope finally concluded the address by saying that “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.” Let us follow the lead of these great American and uses them as examples of how to make America great again.
Father Dan Horan OFM has a brief reflection on the mentioning of Merton and Day over on his YouTube page. Horan gives a little background on Merton and Day and their roles in the Catholic Church.