United States

Nation of nations. The United States celebrates its 247th anniversary

The founding fathers of the nation and many of the first settlers were guided by the faith in a country made up of people of different races and creeds who could live together, with justice and freedom, under one God.

Gonzalo Meza and Jennifer Terranova-July 5, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes
United States

The U.S. flag (Unsplash / Dave Sherrill)

And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust' And the star-spangled banner, triumphant shall wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave! ("The Star-Spangled Banner", National Anthem of the United States of America).

247 years ago, July 4, 1776 United States of America (USA) began its stage as a Nation of Nations, forged with the effort and blood of the original peoples and of the people from different regions of the planet who came to these lands in search of life, justice, freedom and happiness. For the first arrivals from Europe it was a hard journey, but what they could gain here was much more important than what they could lose there, because in the end they considered the territory as the "land of the free" and the "home of the brave". 

The nation's founding fathers and many of the early settlers were guided by faith in a country made up of people of different races and creeds who could live together in justice and freedom under one God, as Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets, said two centuries later in 1856: "What then is there between us? What good is it to keep score of the twenty or hundreds of years between us? No matter the time, no matter the place, neither is distance of any use to us" ("Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"Crossing on the Brooklyn ferry). We are one nation under God.

The precursors 

In celebrating Independence Day, the U.S. remembers with fervor the forerunners who through their work, struggles and writings promoted the political, social and economic configuration of the United States, its founding fathers: George Washington (1732-1799); Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826); John Adams (1735-1826); Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790); Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804); John Jay (1745-1829); and James Madison (1751-1836), among others. Although they belonged to various Christian faiths, practiced in different ways (or not practiced), faith in Christ influenced the configuration of the soul of the country and was clearly expressed in one of the founding documents: the Declaration of Independence of 1776: 

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political ties that have bound it to another and to take among the nations of the earth the separate and equal place to which it the laws of nature and the laws of God entitle him toWe hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. --American Declaration of Independence, 1776

Catholics and independence

Among the 56 signers of the Declaration was only one Catholic: Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), a Maryland native of Irish descent. His contribution as a Catholic in signing the document was perhaps an early sign of religious advancement in the fledgling nation. He - like many of America's sons and daughters - strove, with his gifts, to forge a "land of the free" in the midst of an anti-Catholic climate. 

In the midst of independence celebrations, it is easy to forget the time when in certain parts of the United States Catholics were subordinated, treated as threats and subjected to double taxation. They were ridiculed and marginalized. They were simply not trusted. They were mistreated and not allowed to fully integrate into society. Being Catholic in states like Massachusetts was illegal. Likewise, Catholics were not allowed to reside in Virginia. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, they could live, but not vote. Today, these measures are unthinkable thanks to the early Catholics who contributed to the "American Project" and the mission of Jesus Christ.

American history books and independence celebrations also forget the crucial role of many Catholics who, although they are not part of the canon of the "Founding Fathers", did play a vital role in the conformation, configuration and development of the incipient nation. There were dozens of missionaries who also arrived in these lands with no other interest than to evangelize. And many arrived before the first settlers, since the history of the United States did not begin with the arrival of the first pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in Plymouth in 1620. Fray Pedro de Corpa and his companions had arrived on the shores of Florida three decades earlier, with the sole desire to announce the Good News of Salvation.


Many decades later, hundreds of missionaries would continue to arrive in the territories of New Spain, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. One of the most notable was undoubtedly St. Junipero Serra, the "Apostle of California". He did not seek earthly goods, but his mission was the one entrusted to him by Jesus Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). St. Junipero Serra accompanied the Native American people. And he also became their defender since he intervened before the Viceroy of New Spain, taking to him in 1773 the "Representation", also called "Letter of the rights" of the native peoples. His objective was the spiritual and physical well-being of the Native Americans. St. Junipero baptized countless people and remained faithful to his missionary vocation.

The United States, as a Nation of Nations, is 247 years old, but the ideals of freedom, defense of life, unity and the pursuit of happiness under one God continue to be valid, attracting thousands of people, as Emma Lazarus' poem, "The New Colossus", at the foot of the Statue of Liberty in New York, says: 

Mother of the Exiles. From her illuminated hand

shines a welcome to everyone. Her gentle eyes

watch over the port and its bridges and the cities that surround it.

"Keep, ancient lands your legendary pomp!" she exclaims with silent lips.

"Give me your weary, your disinherited,

 to your overcrowded crowds yearning for the breath of freedom.

Give me the homeless of your overflowing shores.

Send these to me: the destitute, the storm-tossed.

I raise my torch by the golden gate!"

-Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

The authorGonzalo Meza and Jennifer Terranova

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