And With Your Spirit–of ’76


Dear Anne,

What could possibly be better than being Catholic?  Why, being an American Catholic, of course!  In the spirit of Independence Day, I offer you some, ahem, “important” moments in Catholic American history.

1649: The Maryland Toleration Act is passed. Contrary to popular belief, this act mandated religious freedom for Catholics in the colony, not that big, bad Virginia stop teasing its runty neighbor.

1769-1782: Junipero Serra completes his mission trail, from San Diego to present day Ventura, California. The now-saint is rumored to have said, “I would have finished a few years earlier, but my mules were exceeding California emissions standards and they found an endangered toad living on one of my sites.”

1793: Diocese of New Orleans, the second diocese in the new country, is created. Soon thereafter, the Vatican cracks down on the practice of throwing beads after a particularly good homily.

1855: Chicago Lager Riots. Years of nativist hatred and violence, including job discrimination, destruction of Catholic property, and even calling the Church the Whore of Babylon, is not enough to cause Catholic immigrants to take a stand. But when Mayor Boone enacts an ordinance outlawing the sale of beer on Sundays, full-scale riots break out, eventually repealing the prohibition and ousting Boone from office.



1875: President Grant supports the Blaine Amendment – a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit the use of public funds for Catholic schools — so that public schools would be “unmixed with atheistic . . . or sectarian teaching.” Yeah, that worked out well.

1883: American Standard begins enameling cast-iron tubs, giving them a smooth, paintable interior. Bathtub Mary is born.



1918: Knute Rockne becomes the Notre Dame football coach, creating confusion for generations of Catholics who didn’t realize Saturday Vigil actually meant going to church instead of a tailgate party.

1920: Nearly 1,500 Catholic high schools operate in the United States. “Leave room for the Holy Spirit” enters the American vernacular.

1967: The Flying Nun premiers. Because America didn’t think Catholics were weird enough.


2015: Pope Francis visits the United States.  Americans embrace the pope that reminds them of themselves.  Francis might sometimes speak a little too freely, but we recognize his New World exuberance, his ready smile and his love of life.



So as we celebrate our 240th birthday, let us be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on us as Catholics and on our country.  And for hot dogs.

Happy Independence Day!



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