I spent the Fourth of July with my wife and a friend at the annual barbeque held by Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Homewood. They have been hosting a barbeque on Independence Day for over 60 years, and it is a BIG DEAL in town. They have tons of pork, ribs, chicken, beans and cole slaw, homemade cakes and pies, games for the kids, and a HUGH yard sale. The streets are lined with cars as people make their way to the event.
While enjoying some excellent barbecue chicken and looking about at all the celebration, I couldn’t help thinking about how in the not-too-distant past Catholics had to take special strides to prove that they were loyal, decent, patriotic Americans (some of the popes in the past who talked about the dangers of democracy probably didn’t help matters). There was still some residual of that question in our nation’s psyche when John F. Kennedy ran for President and had to reassure voters that he would always put the country’s interest ahead of any perceived direction from the pope.
Perhaps this long-running Fourth of July celebration at Our Lady of Sorrows Church has its roots in that effort for American Catholics to prove their patriotism. Today there is no question, even here in the Baptist-dominated South. Americans of many faiths and creeds joined in the food, fun, and celebration in Homewood that day. We have made great progress in recognizing the dignity and worth so many who have come to this country to find a better life.
I will know that we have truly arrived when I see a Fourth of July celebration at an Islamic Center. I doubt that there will be any barbeque pork, but we could still have some beef ribs and chicken. I would even enjoy some falafel and taboule in celebration of our national holiday.