The Catholic novelist Walker Percy once said, “Everyone has an anthropology. There is no not having it. If a man says he doesn’t, all he’s saying is that his anthropology is implicitly a set of assumptions he hasn’t thought to question.
By anthropology he meant a set of beliefs about what it means to be a human being – about how we are made, why we are here, and what brings meaning and happiness to our lives.
And Percy is right. Many of the deepest problems in our society and culture are problems of anthropology, even though we don’t talk about them that way.
Our Catholic social teaching is rooted in a beautiful and realistic anthropology, rooted in the teachings of ancient Judaism, developed by early Christian leaders and passed down through the centuries.
We believe that every human being, from the moment he is conceived in the womb, is created as “imago Dei”, the image of God, with a holiness and dignity that can never be denied.
We believe that we are made of creatures of body and soul, male or female, and that we are not created in isolation but in relationships – with the world around us and with other people.
We are made to live in families and communities based on the most fundamental human relationship, that of man and woman in marriage. These natural relationships become the basis for social rights and also for moral duties of mutual care towards others and towards the world around us.
At the heart of the Catholic vision is a profound truth: we are loved by God. Saint Paul taught that before the foundation of the world, everyone is chosen and loved by God and destined for holiness in Jesus Christ.
And it’s still incredible for me to think about. The God who created the sun and the moon, the stars and all the planets — this God thought of us, he wanted you and me to be born. Before any creation, God knew our names and had a plan for our lives.
In our Christian tradition, our lives have a beautiful teleology, a beautiful purpose, and a beautiful direction.
We are made to be redeemed, transformed, by the love of Jesus Christ, into the fullness of the divine image, to become “participants in the divine nature”, as Saint Peter said.
We are made for holiness, but we are also sinners.
We know this from personal experience, from our own failures and weaknesses, and we know from reading the news that sin is real.
We are made of reason and freedom, made to seek God and the good. We are called to seek to know him, to love him and to serve him. But we are also free to reject God, to turn away from him and to do evil. It is sin.
Sin is disordered love, choosing to love the wrong things and forming unhealthy attachments rooted in our selfishness.
But sin does not have the last word in our world or in our lives. God does not abandon the human race to sin.
Jesus Christ enters human history as the Son of God, “the perfect image of the invisible God” and “the new man”. It delivers us from sin and restores our human capacity for God and our ability to carry out God’s intentions for our lives.
As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, it is good to remember that this country was founded on a vision informed by the great tradition of Judeo-Christian anthropology.
Our nation’s founders shared the belief that all men and women are created equal, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities.
The founders believed that the only purpose of law and government is to serve humanity person and to protect and promote the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They believed that our human laws should reflect and conform to a higher law – which they called “the laws of nature and of the God of nature”.
As Catholics, the best service we can offer to our society is to live our faith in Jesus Christ with confidence and joy, serving God with all our hearts and serving our families and neighbors.
In this time when so many are confused about the true meaning of life, let us try to bear witness in a special way to the beautiful anthropology entrusted to us, helping our neighbors to see that they are cherished by God, made in his image, and born for greater things.
Pray for me, and I will pray for you. And pray for America.
And may Mary Immaculate, Patroness of America, give us the courage and wisdom to proclaim the beauty of God’s project of love for creation, for the human person and for the human family.