After serving as a juror for a 9-day trial, which ended last week and resulted in the state annexing my Spring Break in their service, I have had some time to think about our civic duties as Catholics in America. What exactly do we owe our country and how do we go about serving her in the best possible manner? What exactly are our civic duties?
It is easy to say that something is part of our “civic duties” and thus entice citizens to act or perform in a certain manner. It can either be a throwaway line with jingoistic connotations, or a statement about acting for a cause you believe will strengthen or advance your country. We all certainly “owe” our country something. But what exactly is it?
I argue that what we “owe” our country are our beliefs and the truth we possess. There is a famous letter written by Lt. Commander John J. Shea to his son during World War II, in which he writes to his son, giving him advice on how to live and explaining why he has to serve our country. Lt. Commander Shea died several months after writing the letter, and it was eventually published in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. While the entire letter is worth reading here, one line became especially important to the growing American Catholic population of the time:
“Be a good Catholic, and you can’t help being a good American.”
Lt. Commander Shea’s insight was that being a good Catholic Gentleman means being a good citizen. The Catholic Gentleman stands for the truth and answers when his country calls. We have something worth fighting for and we must fight for it. While that does not mean that all of us must serve in the armed forces, it does mean that we all owe something to our country. Whether that means serving the souls of its citizens as a Catholic or serving the public good in general, each of us owes something to our fellow men. We must fight for truth at all times, by voting to affirm the dignity of man, by ensuring the public good, and by raising our families to do the same.
Our civic duties cannot be separated from our duties as Catholic Gentlemen. We must stand for the truth at all times, and serve our fellow men to the best of our abilities. We owe something to those around us. Part of “loving others as Christ loved us” means that the Catholic Gentleman must work for the common good. And that’s a civic duty we can all support.