As I write this I am in between two events: the first I just returned from; the controversial commencement exercises at the University of Notre Dame. The other one is Memorial Day. I have no trouble whatever immediately linking the two.
The University of Notre Dame and many other Catholic institutions in the United States contributed very significantly to making the United States of America the great nation that it once was, and could be again. These Catholic colleges, universities, high schools, and grammar schools formed generations of good Americans. They had a lot to do with the formation of the moral character of this nation, and through this nation much of the civilized world.
When freedom, truth, and goodness had to be defended against the Godless likes of Hitler and Stalin the United States, like other solid Christian countries, did more than their part. The reason they could do it had much to do with the moral and religious backbone of the individuals who were called upon to serve. We had learned from our priests and bishops, our good parents and grandparents, that principle was more important than prestige and morality far more essential than popularity.
Think back to what the moral fiber of this country was like in the 1950s, if you are old enough to remember. Recall that this was a free country then, but atrocities and outrages like pornography and abortion would have gotten you a stiff prison sentence rather than applause and general acceptance. The problem is that we've confused freedom and license, called promiscuity love, and frequently exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
In my hometown of Hudson, New York St. Mary's Catholic Church has a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Victory. It was, I believe, put in sometime around or after World War II. The wall that faces you when you enter the chapel is covered with small brass plates. On each plate is the name of a person that served his or her country during World War II. Some of the names, not a small number, have a star next to them indicating that the person was killed in action.
The Catholic Church has had a lot to do with the making of great nations by forming the great people that make for great nations. In more recent times I'm afraid we have frequently contributed to the weakening of great nations by the impoverished nature of the witness we have given. The Church herself is not confused, nor is her teaching ambiguous or weak. However, many leaders in the Church are confused and terribly weak in failing to give bold and uncompromising witness to authentic Catholic teaching. This has done incalculable damage to the Church, diluting Catholic identity, confusing the faithful, and compromising our ability to teach truth.
I'm afraid this Memorial Day I'm going to have to mourn more than the faithful ones who gave the supreme witness of their lives for our country. I won't be able to help mourning the very substantial loss of Catholic witness and strength in our country and the world, and the terrible danger to freedom that this entails.
Then again, we know the last chapter of the Book: We win!
Better days are coming.
God bless you,
Fr. John Corapi