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    FUN FACTS FOR THE FOURTH

    A few Catholic connections to our national holiday

    By Gerald Korson 7/2/2020
    CREDIT: Image by Owen Franken/ Getty image

    You probably know that Charles Carroll was the sole Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and that he was the living signatory when he passed away in 1832. He signed the document “Charles Carroll of Carrollton” to distinguish himself from several other Maryland men, among them his father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, and his son, Charles Carroll of Homewood. He might have signed it under his Irish ancestral name of O’Carroll had his grandfather, Charles Carroll the Settler, not Anglicized his surname.

    Are there specifically Catholic dishes to serve on Independence Day? Not really, as it’s a national rather than a religious holiday. But if you want to forego the now-common barbecue fare and whip up a meal that dates to the time of the Revolution, consider what George Washington likely would have enjoyed during his days in Virginia. In their Feast Day Cookbook, published in 1951, authors Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger suggest a breakfast of rice waffles and perhaps a supper of poached salmon with egg and caper sauce with peas and mashed potatoes on the side — a diet of soft foods specially prepared for the “Father of our Country” due to the pain he experienced from poor-fitting false teeth.

    Speaking of salmon, there are a number of Catholic saints and blesseds whose feasts fall on July 4, among them Blessed Peter Salmon, who along with Blessed Thomas Bosgrove was martyred in England in 1594 for sheltering a priest. This happened during the English Reformation, when it was considered treason to be a Catholic. Other July 4 saints include Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an Italian who dedicated himself to works of social action, charity, prayer and community up to his death from polio at the age of 24 in 1925; St. Andrew of Crete, a seventh-century monk whose “Great Canon” the Orthodox pray during Lent; and St. Elizabeth of Portugal, queen of Portugal in the late 13th and early 14th centuries whose great faith and daily devotion to Mass eventually led her husband, King Denis, to turn from sin and embrace fully his Catholic faith.

    Finally, whether you attend a fireworks display, shoot off a few in your own backyard, or sit on your porch and observe as your quiet subdivision takes on the sights and sounds of a battlefield, you should watch for the popular fireworks known as Roman candles, the simple Chinese-made devices that fires one or more shells into the sky to explode into a star pattern. Why they bear the name “Roman candle” isn’t entirely clear, but some say it refers to first-century Rome and Emperor Nero’s practice of burning Christians at stakes and using their flaming bodies to light streets and courtyards at night.

    Whether that’s true or not, perhaps it can serve as a reminder for us to reflect on the importance of our freedom of religion and worship as we celebrate the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” called for in the Declaration of Independence we celebrate each Fourth of July.

    Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana.

    Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s archives, click here.

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