A country founded by people of faith
Our nation celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation on July 1.
There is no question that the various celebrations across Canada will include the singing of our national anthem. The words of our anthem inspire pride, patriotism and great affection for “our home and native land.” We also find a simple prayer: “God keep our land, glorious and free.” The fact that our national anthem recognizes God and asks for divine assistance should not come as a surprise. We were founded as a nation that valued faith in God. This fact is enshrined in our Canadian Constitution.
The 1982 Constitution Act begins with this statement: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law …”
Canada was founded by people of faith who acknowledged the role of God in maintaining “peace, order and good government.”
There is no question that the country that we have all come to know and love was founded on faith-based principles. In my opinion this has helped to make our country to be great and the envy of many around the world. Faith helped to unite, inspire, and give hope; it was seen as good even though people of faith could still do bad things. This is not necessarily the reality we experience today.
Over the years some have forgotten how belief in God built the solid foundation for our nation and informed our culture. Some would argue that Canada has now evolved and what was good in the past is no longer relevant for today and tomorrow.
Canada is an example of what is meant by the principle of the separation of church and state. This simply means that unlike some of the countries in Europe, there is no official state religion in Canada.
Some have come to understand this principle as meaning that faith has no place in government. I do not believe that this was the intention of those who established our great nation.
Faith is not simply for church or places of worship. My faith influences who I am and what I do each day. A well-formed faith is an asset and should help me to be the best person I can be in the various situations and vocations of life. This is also true in politics.
Recently, a politician in the United Kingdom resigned because of a conflict of faith. Tim Farron, head of the Liberal Democrat Party, resigned as leader because he believed that it was not possible to be a man of faith and a political leader. He stated, “A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.”
This is very unfortunate because one should be able to be a person of faith and an effective politician. To be free and faithful in Christ should never mean that one has to be unfaithful to the principles of one’s country. The two should be complementary and not mutually exclusive.
On Canada Day let us pause and be grateful for the privilege of being Canadian. Let us also acknowledge how for 150 years God has blessed our land and inspired many to greatness. We should not forget that in Canada, ‘faith matters.’
“Eternal God, whose reign extends from sea to sea and whose care endures throughout the ages, hear our prayers for Canada: grant wisdom to those who govern it and respect for human life and dignity to every citizen, so that justice may flourish and all people live in unity and in peace.” (Roman Missal)
The Most Reverend Gerard Bergie is Bishop of St. Catharines