By GLENN RUTHERFORD
Parishes all across the nation — and throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville — held special services and prayers this past weekend as they began observing the call of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a “fortnight for freedom.”
In the archdiocese, several parishes began the fortnight with prayer services on June 22. Most recognized the observance with prayers and homilies during weekend Masses.
At the Cathedral of the Assumption’s Sunday evening Mass on June 24, the homily — delivered by Deacon Stephan Phelps — emphasized the importance of communication as part of “fortnight for freedom.”
The bishops have asked Catholics throughout the nation to pray and take steps “to ensure that the encroachment on our religious freedom is halted,” Deacon Phelps told a nearly full Cathedral.
“Central to addressing this issue is to communicate, and to do that we must determine what communication, good communication, entails,” he said.
Effective communication involves three significant segments, the deacon noted. “To effectively communicate, we must speak, listen and respond,” he explained. “When we get these three things mixed up is when we get into problems.”
Deacon Phelps referred to the Gospel reading for weekend Masses — Luke 1: 57-66, and verse 80 — which related the tale of the birth of a baby to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
The Gospel notes that family and friends assumed the child would be named for his father, but his mother said “Not so; he shall be called John.”
And to make the point perfectly clear, Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it a simple, direct and declarative statement: “His name is John.”
We all need to communicate as clearly as the Gospel noted when we hear the word of God or are moved by the Holy Spirit, the deacon said.
“We speak to inform, to help, to pass along our friendship and our love,” said Deacon Phelps. “I knew a woman named Ruth who lovingly spoke to everyone; she was always the one who would do something to make others feel welcomed.
“But we also know others, unfortunately, who are the opposite of Ruth. They are people who speak with a ‘forked tongue,’ who speak to hurt or to mislead or deceive,” he said. “They say one thing and mean something totally different. They only communicate the negative and ignore the positive.”
Our ability to listen, to discern those speaking from the heart as opposed to those speaking from self-interest, is an important aspect of good communication, Deacon Phelps noted.
“Listening is equally — perhaps even more important — a part of communication,” he added. “Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear; sometimes we only listen to those who will tell us what we like.
“How frustrated God must be with us all the time,” he said. “He speaks to us every day and we often fail to hear him.”
Deacon Phelps quoted George Bernard Shaw on the importance — and efficacy — of communication.
“The single biggest problem in communication,” the playwright said, “is the illusion that it has taken place.”
“This week, as we consider the goals of our fortnight for freedom,” Deacon Phelps said, “let us listen to God’s voice and when we hear it, let us respond to that call, whatever it might be.”
In addition to “fortnight-related” homilies at parishes throughout the archdiocese, several parishes held special events to mark its beginning. They included St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky., which held a “Divine Mercy Twenty-Four Hours of Prayer for Freedom” which began on June 22, and St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky., which held a Mass to open the fortnight at 7 p.m. on June 21. Other
Fortnight for Freedom events took place at St. Patrick Church in Louisville and St. Rose Church in Springfield, Ky.
At St. Christopher Church, Father Dennis Cousens reported that about 150 people took part in the day-and-night-long eucharistic Adoration that began with 9 a.m. Mass on June 22 and ended at the same time the following morning. Father Cousens said the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was prayed every hour, along with the Prayer for Religious Liberty.
At 3 a.m. on the morning of June 23, Father Cousens led a procession with the Blessed Sacrament — and about 80 procession participants — around the church grounds.