In the United States and in the Catholic Church, the notion of unity is significant.
We are, of course, states united in one nation.
In addition to “In God we Trust,” the U.S. also proclaims “United we stand; divided we fall” and embraces the Latin phrase, “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.
We are also part of the universal church.
We are one body in Christ.
The Gospel call us to walk with our brothers and sisters from every walk of life — united as children of God, created in his image.
The holy Trinity is three in one.
Over and over we see reflected in our faith and our nation the inherent goodness of unity.
Not in recent memory was the United States more unified than on Sept. 11, 2001, and the weeks and months that followed.
Horrified, we flocked to churches for noon Mass that day, praying together for peace, consolation and answers.
We wept together over the many stories of courage. First responders gave their lives unhesitatingly for strangers that day, as they do — miraculously — everyday. They show us the very best of what it means to be “an American.”
In the days and weeks that followed the attacks, we presented a united front as we condemned terrorism. As we learned about Al-Qaeda’s atrocities, we were collectively dismayed.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. We became mired in interminable war and gradually became unglued.
We are now a polarized mess. We can’t even agree on what’s true and false. Ideology has infected us — on every side.
Aboard the papal flight from Africa to Rome Sept. 10, Pope Francis discussed the hazards of ideology.
Speaking of potential schism in the Catholic Church, he noted that some critics of the pope focus on an ideology to such an extent that they view church doctrine through the lens of that fixation, Catholic News Service reported.
Criticism, he told reporters on the flight, “always helps.”
“When one is criticized, the first thing to do is to reflect, ‘Is this true, not true, to what extent’ is it valid?” he said. “Sometimes you get angry” but “there are always advantages” to be drawn from listening to critics.
He added that criticism is healthy when it’s open and when the critic is open to dialogue.
“This is real criticism,” Pope Francis said.
It’s been a long time in the U.S. since the most extreme ends of our poles have listened with an open mind and engaged in real dialogue.
Let’s not wait for a national tragedy to unite us again. It doesn’t take a tragedy to do what we did back in the fall of 2001. It only requires good will and a commitment to truth — casting out ideology.
We can choose to do those things today:
Pray together — pray for the clarity, faith and truth we need to overcome our ideology and polarization.
Seek the truth — Stop relying on talking heads and memes to tell us what’s going on in the world. Instead, read professional, in-depth reporting from multiple sources. And find out what our church leaders have to say.
Dialogue — Engage in real dialogue. As Pope Francis urges, take and receive criticism with an open mind. Aim to learn rather than to defend your position.
Act — Take action by becoming faithful citizens. That means voting in every election with an informed conscience. That means reaching out to lawmakers on issues.
Let’s never forget the men and women who died on Sept. 11 and honor them by making the United States a beacon of unity.