Written By: Very Rev. Bishop Paul Sirba
June 7, 2013
For the second year, and with good reason, the U.S. bishops have decided to organize the Fortnight for Freedom. It is a 14-day period of prayer, reflection and action to promote a greater understanding of religious liberty in the two weeks leading up to Independence Day.
The Fortnight will officially begin on June 21, the eve of the feast of two great martyrs, Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, and the day I will ordain three men to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. It will end with a 9 a.m. closing Mass at our Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary on the Fourth of July.
Across the United States, dioceses will be organizing prayer gatherings, study groups, rallies and other activities in observance of the Fortnight.
Why is it so important to continue the Fortnight for Freedom? It is so important because our religious liberties are being stripped away from us. The redefinition of marriage in the State of Minnesota is one tragic example. And as it stands right now, on Aug. 1 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate will force private employers, some of which are in court seeking to retain the freedom to run their businesses according to Christian principles, as well as some religious organizations, regardless of their teachings, to include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception in their employee health care plans. The so-called accommodations proposed by the administration to allay our fears have not improved the situation.
The principle of religious liberty is rooted in our nature and expounded in a document from Vatican II, “Dignitatis Humanae,” which explains that the human person is “endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility.” We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are His adopted sons and daughters by our baptism. We have a moral obligation to seek the truth. Once it is known, we are also bound to adhere to it and to order our lives in accordance with its demands. For us, the truth is not a set of propositions but a Person, Jesus Christ.
Many today are trying to reduce religious liberty to freedom of worship. Like the communists of the not-too-distant past, they don’t have a problem with us praying quietly in our churches. But don’t attempt to practice your faith in society or your will be persecuted.
Well, we’ve already been experiencing the persecution. Now we are being asked to violate our consciences, and will be forced against our will to support immoral behavior.
My brothers and sisters, we have a fundamental right to worship God and to live our faith. This includes the freedom of churches and church organizations to run schools, hospitals and social services and to express ourselves in the town square and in the marketplace.
Please participate in the Fortnight for Freedom. Materials to assist in this have been made available through the USCCB website, www.Fortnight4Freedom.org:
Following is a prayer you can pray during those 14 days:
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God our Creator, from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society. We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.