Friday, September 28, 2012

"Yes, America...."

As I go, I take with me vivid memories of a dynamic nation, a warm and welcoming people, a Church abundantly blessed with a rich blend of cultural traditions. 
I depart with admiration for the ecumenical spirit that breathes strongly throughout this land, for the genuine enthusiasm of your young people, and for the hopeful aspirations of your most recent immigrants. I take with me an unforgettable memory of a country that God has richly blessed from the beginning until now. 
America the beautiful! So you sing in one of your national songs. Yes, America, you are beautiful indeed, and blessed in so many ways: 
– in your majestic mountains and fertile plains;
– in the goodness and sacrifice hidden in your teeming cities and expanding suburbs;
– in your genius for invention and for splendid progress;
– in the power that you use for service and in the wealth that you share with others;
– in what you give to your own, and in what you do for others beyond your borders;
– in how you serve, and in how you keep alive the flame of hope in many hearts;
– in your quest for excellence and in your desire to right all wrongs.
Yes, America, all this belongs to you. But your greatest beauty and your richest blessing is found in the human person: in each man, woman and child, in every immigrant, in every native-born son and daughter. 
For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. 
The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person: 
– feeding the poor and welcoming refugees;
– reinforcing the social fabric of this nation;
– promoting the true advancement of women;
– securing the rights of minorities;
– pursuing disarmament, while guaranteeing legitimate defence; all this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.
Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. 
This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenceless ones, those as yet unborn. 
With these sentiments of love and hope for America, I now say goodbye in words that I spoke once before: "Today, therefore, my final prayer is this: that God will bless America, so that she may increasingly become - and truly be - and long remain one Nation, under God, indivisible. With liberty and justice for all." 
May God bless you all.
God bless America!
–Blessed Pope John Paul II
Farewell Ceremony from the United States
Detroit Metro Airport
19 September 1987
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Much as it seems the milestone's been forgotten in today's American Catholic conversation – a scene whose attention span is, admittedly, nothing to write home about – this month has marked the silver anniversary of what's likely to be the most extensive journey Peter will ever take on these shores: a ten-day trek which wended its way from Miami to Texas, the Carolinas to California, Mother New Orleans to the Motor City.

Father, forgive them – all they care about these days is the election. Yet as one leading Stateside prelate recently mused in a public (albeit unscripted) aside, when it comes to this church's future in our midst, the coming Year of Faith "is even more important."

Either way, having been too young at the time to experience those days, it's all too easy to be envious of those who did. Thanks to the magic of "Hollywood," though, at least the lot of us can revisit one priceless piece of them....

Wujek, módl się za nami... and, church, suffice it to say, know your history.

PHOTO: San Francisco Chronicle/File(1); New Orleans Times-Picayune/File(2)