Today is a secular holiday in the United States of America: Independence Day. It was on this date that the Declaration of Independence was approved by congress. John Adams, a signer of the Declaration and his country’s second president, thought that July 2nd would make a better holiday than today, because it was on the 2nd that congress voted to approve the resolution establishing legal independence from Great Britain. I believe that what John Adams wrote about July 2nd can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to July 4th: “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
In what do such solemn acts consist? Here, we must part company with Adams, who was a fierce opponent of Catholicism. If we turn to the Church’s calendar, we find today to be the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a 14th century saint who died on this date. Although the observance of her feast in the USA has been transferred to tomorrow, we might benefit by reflecting on her life a day early. As a lay woman, Elizabeth developed the habit of going to mass every day and praying the liturgy of the hours. Later in life, after her husband’s death, she entered the third order of St. Francis. How great an example! We would be hard pressed to find better acts of solemn devotion to God than daily sacraments, the liturgy of the hours and religious vows.
To these acts Elizabeth joined a heroic degree of virtue. For instance, she loved her husband and remained faithful to him, even though he cheated on her. She even helped to raise his illegitimate children. As her reputation for wisdom and holiness grew, she twice went out and reconciled opposed political factions that were on the verge of war with each other. That is why she is sometimes known as “the peacemaker.” Today, let us renew our love and devotion to God, and let us keep St. Elizabeth as our example.