Pope Francis offered Americans the freedom of faith. Faith, a relationship between God and man, sets a person free because it gives him power over suffering. The founding fathers sought such freedom centuries ago by founding a republic that would uphold laws to defend their people from any sort of political, economic, or religious oppression. Whether or not the American republic has done justice to its fathers’ intentions, Pope Francis revealed to the American people that a greater freedom exists than that which our republic can promise us. The Christian faith does not abolish suffering as a law would slavery, but it destroys the power suffering can have over a person because it asserts that an unconditionally loving God has created and calls that person to eternal life in love with Him. When a person pledges allegiance to this faith, that faith in turn protects him because no suffering regardless of its magnitude can destroy the love of man for God and more importantly God’s love for man.
The World Meeting of Families could not have come at a more providential time for Americans. Political tensions run high as candidates prepare for upcoming elections and discuss the future of America. Pope Francis’s presence did not serve to answer the numerous questions of political responsibility in this country, but the Vicar of Christ who represents a 2,000 year old tradition of faith and who offered the sacrifice of the Mass in the city of Philadelphia where the nation’s Declaration of Independence was signed juxtaposed the heavenly and worldly kingdoms clearly and definitively. And such a juxtaposition demands a choice, but not that a person accept one kingdom and reject the other. Rather, it insists that he give to each what each is due. Freedom and dignity will always be given to people by God alone through the relationship of faith, and to demand such a gift from government is nothing short of idolatry that bears with it its own consequences. Last Sunday, as Americans gathered around the heavenly table of Thanksgiving and professed one faith, the American soul received much grace. The Pope has since parted for Rome and Washington has reclaimed the media’s attention but the choice of faith remains for all Americans and with it the promise of freedom.