By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The bishops of the United States are asking Catholics around the nation to pray for, learn about and take action to understand and promote religious liberty in the coming weeks.
In the Archdiocese of Louisville, Catholics are invited specifically to take part in special Holy Hours that focus on religious freedom, life and marriage on June 8 and 22. And the faithful are asked to join in the national Fortnight for Freedom June 21 to July 4, a two-week period set aside by the U.S. bishops for the church to focus on religious liberty.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who is the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said during an interview last week, “Sometimes we talk about religious liberty and it can be overwhelming.
“Every one of us, in following Christ, has that never ending call of prayer, study and action for the good of our society and the good of the church within society,” he said. “That’s really what this Fortnight is about — the deeper understanding of this precious gift of religious freedom.”
The archbishop noted that in the United States, the freedom of speech has limits.
“But we have a robust understanding of the defense of speech,” he said. “We need the same kind of robust understanding of the defense of religious freedom, too.”
The Fortnight for Freedom, which occurred last year, too, will begin nationally with a special Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Baltimore. Archbishop William Lori will be the celebrant. The Fortnight will conclude with a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The celebrant will be Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Locally, Archbishop Kurtz has encouraged people to take part in the observance at their own parishes. And he has written a letter to pastors, asking them to focus on the issue during liturgies.
The archbishop said the observance comes at a critical time this year.
In the letter he sent to pastors in mid-May, he explained that the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on “same-sex ‘marriage’ ” during the Fortnight.
The Fortnight also will end one month before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services so-called contraceptive mandate takes effect on Aug. 1.
“We now know after extensive study and analysis of the last proposal that we are still far from receiving the relief we need through the regulatory process,” the archbishop wrote in the letter.
In addition to these issues, he said, some of the ministries of the church are affected by limits on religious freedom, including the church’s immigration, adoption and disaster relief work.
The two upcoming Holy Hours — dedicated to life and marriage in addition to religious liberty — are the last in a series that began in January.
• The next liturgy will be held at St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky., on June 8 beginning with Mass at 8:30 a.m.
• The final Holy Hour will be held on June 22 at St. Paul Church, 6901 Dixie Highway, and will begin with Mass at 8:15 a.m.
The archbishop encouraged the faithful to take part in the Holy Hours or to pray on their own for religious liberty.
“I’m always amazed at the robust prayer life people have in their home, in eucharistic adoration, at Mass,” he said. “I do want to invite the faithful to come to the Holy Hours on June 8 or 22, or even in their own church or their own home to join in solidarity through their own prayer.”
A variety of tools to help Catholics pray, learn and act on this issue are available, including the following:
• Resources related to religious liberty are available on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s website, www.archlou.org/liberty. Among the resources are a template for a Holy Hour, a prayer for religious freedom, suggested Prayers of the Faithful, a study guide called “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” and suggestions for Fortnight activities.
• The USCCB has developed daily reflections for each day of the Fortnight. They are available on the archdiocesan website.
• The U.S. bishops also have created a texting campaign in which they will text updates related to religious liberty. To begin receiving these updates on your mobile phone, text the word “freedom” to 377377.
• The Catholic Conference of Kentucky offers a similar service via email. To sign up for alerts from the CCK, visit www.ccky.org.