Jesus Christ called his apostles to rest awhile. We all need time to rest and retreat from the busyness of the world. It is for this reason that God commanded that we rest on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. God also calls us to have an adventuresome heart and invites us to be pilgrims on the way, a way that culturally morphed into what we now know as vacations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 2176: The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God and outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all (St. Thomas Aquinas).” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people. CCC par. 2177: The Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. “Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” In our Catholic Christian tradition, we also have the invitation to go on longer “retreats” where we focus on God’s word, contemplation and pursue spiritual insights. Think about Jesus Christ spending 40 days fasting and praying in the desert. Fortunately for us, our Judeo/Christian roots also developed a sense of going on pilgrimages, spiritual adventures, and have morphed into the understanding of going on a “holiday” or “vacation”. On one of my vacations my parents and I drove 10 hours to Mount Rushmore to camp out with some of my siblings and their families in the Year of our Lord, anno Domini, (AD) 2013. It was a memorable time in the Black Hills. We enjoyed playing soccer, hiking, and sharing our lives together. The stratified granite rocks and quartz begged to be fashioned as prehistoric tools. We imagined being in the Stone Age and made a “buffalo spear” out of nothing but stone and wood. My nieces and nephews participated with helpful imaginations and strenuous work, giving us a taste of primitive living.
Our visit to Mount Rushmore was very meaningful as you can see history carved into the side of a mountain. A film on an outdoor screen tells the story about our nation, her trials and tribulations, accomplishments and errors. It did not gloss over the fact that our country ignored her own principles and maltreated the Indians and blacks. The movie did not include all those others who were maltreated and neglected. The four presidents carved into the mountain tell a story of a people united in the principles of truth, freedom and justice. George Washington is the most prominent (1st President 1789-1797) and symbolizes how our country was “birthed and liberated” with the Declaration of Independence wherein we read that God – not the government – is the source of our natural rights and responsibilities based on God’s natural law. From God comes “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and this is the foundation and measure of any reasonable person who is intellectually honest.
The next president is Thomas Jefferson (3rd Pres. 1801-1809) who symbolizes the “expansion” of our country. His forward-looking vision attained for us the Louisiana Purchase from France (1803), which extended from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains.
Abraham Lincoln (16th Pres. 1861-1865) symbolizes the “preservation” of our United States of America because of his very difficult decision to defend Fort Sumter and enter into Civil War (1861-1865) in order to uphold “liberty” for black people. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (26th Pres. 1901-1909), whose adventuresome spirit was almost snuffed out many times, learned through his suffering the importance of establishing Wildlife Refugees, and promoted fairness between unions and employers with his “square deal”. He symbolizes true “progress” of our nation based on natural law principles. He was the first American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, invite a black man to the White House, and appoint a Jewish man as a cabinet member. I was duly impressed when my nephew could name all of the Presidents of our country in order! Can we even name the Twelve Apostles and the Ten Commandments? I have the Ten Commandments memorized, but struggle with the names of the apostles. Our country is blessed, but it is still young. It certainly has changed in the last 8 years and may not always exist as a free country, unless we turn back to God. Jesus Christ, however, is the never changing source of love, truth, freedom and eternal life. May we retreat to his side, sit at his feet, listen and memorize his words, so that we may actively live out our faith, Sunday after Sunday, in order to protect all that is life giving, true and eternal. Peace, Fr. Thomas McCabe