Patriotism and faith in God go hand in hand and should instill in people a love for America and for all people, a Catholic priest says.
The Rev. Thomas J. Meersman, director of special affairs for the Utah Catholic Diocese, spoke Thursday at an Interfaith Devotional in Steinway Hall, 156 S. Main St.Speaking on the 47th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Rev. Meersman used that event as the basis for explaining the relationship between faith and patriotism, saying that military personnel stationed there and other places are determined to keep America free.
He said countless Americans believe so much in America and the principles upon which it was founded that they offer their lives in defense of its freedoms.
Quoting from Pope John Paul II, the Rev. Meersman said people cannot be good, God-fearing individuals without being good citizens.
"Those who believe in God have a right and a duty to contribute as far as they are able to the building of a society," the Rev. Meersman said.
As Americans think about Pearl Harbor and the freedoms they enjoy they should make their feelings known, he said.
He said citizens who love America and love their God place the dignity of others and concern for the welfare of society above selfish interests.
"Justice is the goal of this kind of American citizen. Our patriotism gives us a love and a deep concern for our land, concern for the welfare of all the people in our country . . . Our patriotism should also give us a deep reverence for our land, the soil, the air we breathe, the water that we use. It means a responsibility toward the environment of the land in which we live and work and play," he said.
The program got under way on a light note when Elder J. Thomas Fyans, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was introducing the Rev. Meersman.
He said the Rev. Meersman likes to tell people that he was born just 20 miles from Nauvoo, Ill., an early-day Mormon settlement. Elder Fyans said that although he was close to the heart of the Mormon religion then, that he is "a lot closer to it now." He then went on to tell about the Rev. Meersman's military and educational background and to note that he had taught at Notre Dame.
"Did you teach football at Notre Dame?" Elder Fyans asked, turning to the speaker seated on the stand.
The clergyman quipped:
"Hail Mary, full of grace, keep Notre Dame in first place."