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Cardinal Seán, Father Casey and Tootsie Rolls

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We're a country and a people whose success has been rooted in hard work, honesty and patriotism. If you're not committed to those values, you're part of the problem.


Listening to people on the street, it's like the world is coming apart. People constantly talk about what's wrong, but nothing seems to change. Elections are supposed to have consequences, but it seems that the prospect for peace in the world becomes more and more remote each and every day. International political organizations are almost irrelevant. It's discouraging to even turn on the news, to see all the corruption and chaos.

But when I go to church, as I did twice last Sunday, and listen to the Gospel -- whether it was Cardinal Seán at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, or Father Robert Casey at St. Brigid Church in South Boston -- I leave the church thinking about the encouraging message and the homily I just heard. It is often a hopeful message of peace, love and life; but unfortunately, that's not what is happening in the world today.

So what are we to do in our daily lives? My first bit of advice is this; don't give up on the political system. It must and it will change. Our country is better than this. We desperately need an inspirational message in America to turn things around. Not a liberal or conservative message necessarily, but a specific message directed at the pride and greatness of America.

I've heard a lot of people talk about what's wrong with America, but now it's time we heard about what's good about America. We're a country and a people whose success has been rooted in hard work, honesty and patriotism. If you're not committed to those values, you're part of the problem. I think religious dialogue in the world is more critical than ever and it needs to start right here in the United States. Also, listening and participating in positive civic events can be motivating. Let me share with you a couple of recent experiences.

Last week, over 500 dedicated people of faith turned out at the Newton Marriott Hotel for the 23rd Annual Massachusetts Family Institute Dinner. MFI is a Boston-area organization with strong Judeo-Christian principles. We heard keynote speaker Eric Metaxas speak about two heroes of mine who have had a profound impact on our history, culture and society. The first was Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany. Bonhoeffer stood up to Adolph Hitler and the greatest evil of 20th century, Nazism. A Lutheran pastor, Bonhoeffer spoke out strongly against Hitler's reign, but was ultimately tortured and hanged in a concentration camp. Metaxas also talked about his own bestselling book-turned-movie "Amazing Grace," the story of William Wilberforce and his heroic campaign to end slavery.

But the best part of the night in Newton for my eight year old special needs grandson Braeden came when Emily Colson, the daughter of Chuck Colson, the late founder of Prison Fellowship, came over to him and spoke to him as lovingly as a mother would to her own child. It was a special night for everyone.

But our weekend for discussing remarkable and historic events was not over quite yet. My wife Kathy and I were invited to an event hosted by our dear friend Mother Olga Yaqob, who is the founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. Mother Olga was born and raised in Iraq and has lived through four wars. She spoke about Christians being persecuted and killed because they courageously refused to reject their faith. Cardinal Seán O'Malley spoke eloquently about the lessons of the Gospel and the struggles against religious persecution through the centuries. Tragically, people of faith continue to face discrimination in society today -- not only in the Middle East, but right here in the United States.

As I said, "we know that there are critics of prayer in our schools, the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and even critical of religious freedom, but my hope is that we start hearing from those many Americans who believe in religious freedom, American values, patriotism and are willing to speak out. Frankly, I am tired of all the reckless and irresponsible critics of the United States in the media and in news all the time. Yes, it's time for a change and the religious community can help begin the healing process."

But this past Sunday was just as inspiring and special for Kathy and me. At the Annual Red Mass and White Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, we heard Cardinal Seán talk to the legal and medical community about our responsibility to defend life and work for peace in the world. I was honored to join the other two U. S. Ambassadors to the Vatican from Boston: current Ambassador Ken Hackett and Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon. They are two very special friends whom I always enjoy being with.

Later on in the day, I joined members of the Knights of Columbus Pere Marquette Council at St. Brigid Church in passing out Tootsie Rolls to help raise money for programs to help God's Special Needs Children. Standing in the back of church after Mass, the people, including many young couples, could not have been more friendly.

Maybe the world needs another William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- people who aren't afraid to fight injustice and discrimination and help build a better and more just society. But until then, I'm happy listening to Cardinal Seán, Father Casey and selling Tootsie Rolls in the back of the church to help special needs children.

Ray Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Mayor of Boston.

- Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.

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