Catholics in the U.S. can have something of a love-hate relationship with the idea of patriotism. Sometimes it can feel like some good Catholics are protesting in front of city hall while others are marching with the Knights of Columbus in the Independence Day parade. (Full disclosure, I'm a proud 4th Degree Knight.) Has one group or the other misunderstood the message? Many younger Catholics quickly tire of polarized political food fights, and opt for apathy. I have sometimes found myself saying, "This whole system is broken." And maybe it is. But then I also remind myself that our whole world is broken, the human family is broken, my own heart is broken, and there is and always has been only one cure: Jesus Christ.
It seems clear that Fr. Sorin wanted Notre Dame to be an American Catholic university. The grand performance hall was named Washington by Fr. Sorin, in honor of the first American President. The hallways of the Main Building (the "Golden Dome"), are festooned with scenes of Christopher Columbus' (re-re-)discovery of the continent. Nowadays the brochures which describe those murals are as much acts of contrition as they are descriptions of the artwork. Was Fr. Sorin, too, simply caught up in the patriotic fervor of his time in a way we can smirk at and dismiss today?
Part of the priceless treasury of the tradition of our Catholic faith is our Church's Social Doctrine. Sometimes these social teachings go tragically undiscovered in the lives of Catholics and Catholic institutions. Two of the most fundamental principles from this ancient yet still prescient treasury are those of subsidiarity and solidarity. These two principles, along with the rest of the richness of this collection of teaching, can help us to understand healthy ways to frame political action and advocacy which strive to come from the heart of the Church, rather than the heart of any politician or particular nation.
Solidarity "is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good, and is found in 'a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to 'lose oneself' for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to 'serve him' instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage.'" (No. 193) This principle reminds us of the goal of progress in human society: true human flourishing.
Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC, is the Associate Director of the Office of Vocations for the U.S. Province of Priests and Brothers. He was ordained in 2013 and currently resides at Moreau Seminary, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.