ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — A Mass and Holy Hour for the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty drew about 100 people to St. James Church here on Jan. 5. The 8 a.m. liturgy was the first of six such Masses and Holy Hours planned around the Archdiocese of Louisville during the next six months.
The liturgies have been scheduled in response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national Call to Prayer for life, marriage and religious liberty. It calls on dioceses to hold monthly Holy Hours and encourages special intentions related to these issues to be included in Prayers of the Faithful.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said it’s essential to respond to concerns for life, marriage and religious freedom with prayer first.
“As part of the call to the new evangelization, we begin all things grounded in prayer so that the work we do will not only be faithful to the Lord but that we will receive the grace and the strength to be able to act in the way that God calls us to act,” he said during the Jan. 5 Holy Hour. “We gather … not as a political party, not as a faction within society, but as a church molded in the person of Jesus Christ.
“There is a temptation on our part when we are faced with great challenges … to become angry with people who are not doing enough, to become agitated and hectic,” he said. “Today, in the presence of Christ through the Eucharist, we take a very different approach.”
These Holy Hours provide an opportunity, he said, to ask a simple question: “Lord what do you want of me?”
Archbishop Kurtz plans to preside at each of the remaining Masses and Holy Hours. They are set for Feb. 9 at 8:30 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.; March 2 at 8:15 a.m. at St. Margaret Mary Church; April 6 at 8 a.m. at St. Helen Church in Glasgow, Ky.; June 8 at 8:30 a.m. at St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky.; and June 22 at 8:15 a.m. at St. Paul Church.
During the Jan. 5 Holy Hour, Archbishop Kurtz called on the faithful to focus their prayers before the Blessed Sacrament on three intentions.
The first intention was for the protection of human life “from the moment of conception to natural death.”
“For sure, there are many presses on people that desperately move them to that terrible decision,” to have an abortion, he noted. “And so, in compassion, our church has always reached out to people in need. In fact, our voice of truth will not be credible unless it is enshrined in acts of charity, in reaching out in compassion to others.
“We pray that we will be forthright in our efforts to have a defense of human life that is not only in our laws but grows in our hearts,” he said.
In his prayer intention for the sanctity of marriage, the archbishop noted, “We are living in a very difficult age.”
It’s an age, he said, “in which people who genuinely want dignity in their lives think the way to get that dignity is to change the definition of marriage. … But that effort to treat each person with dignity can never be done on the basis of changing the very grounding and definition of marriage.”
He urged people to recommit themselves to marriage, which he described as a “union of one man and one woman open to life” and the “very bedrock of society.”
For the final intention, religious liberty, the archbishop said, “we ask our Lord to give us some direction.”
“Unfortunately, there are real threats to religious liberty within our nation,” he said. “You read the paper and sometimes people say, well, they’re not real threats.
“Let me tell you, as the former director of Catholic Charities for over 20 years in Pennsylvania, one of the things we never said of anyone who comes for help, ‘First see that they are registered in a Catholic parish.’ We never required that those we serve are Catholic.
“We serve all people,” he noted. “Yet we never serve in a way that is inconsistent with our faith. So, we are faced with … making a choice: the choice, if we are to be law abiding, either to serve only those who are Catholic and only hire those who are Catholic or to serve all people but to compromise, to promote and even pay for contraceptives that bring about abortion.”
A mandate of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires employer-provided health insurance to provide free coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and some drugs that induce abortions. An exemption for religious institutions applies only to those institutions whose purpose is to inculcate religious values and that employ and serve people of their own faith.