Hope in the Lord — Six weeks until ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

Six weeks from now you will be invited to participate in a 14-day special event — the “Fortnight for Freedom” that will end with the 4th of July. What is so special this time? I just wrote to all of our pastors about this opportunity and its special invitation to education and prayer.

You would have to be living on another planet not to know of the assaults on the freedom of religion over these last few months. Part of the challenge in communicating these serious concerns is that too many base their understanding on headlines, sound bites, or cartoons rather than a thorough knowledge of the issues.

The “fortnight” call is to be informed and to join in prayer. Of all the freedoms that we enjoy in these United States, surely the most basic and cherished is the freedom of religion. Indeed some of us and many of our ancestors came to this country precisely for this freedom.

When I was in school, teachers always reminded us to review what we have already learned. Thus as part of our observance of this fortnight, we will make available prior resources such as my January 2012 interview about religious liberty on “Conversations.” (The video appears at the end of this column.)

Since January there has been much attention to the Church’s efforts to address the very troubling Health and Human Services (HHS) coercive mandate requiring almost all private health plans to cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. For the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government will force religious institutions to facilitate drugs and procedures contrary to our moral teaching, and it seeks to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit an exemption.

While our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had to respond quickly to many urgent situations, there is a concern about continued education for the faithful. Thus, the Conference has been working to develop a series of resources to address a wide range of issues from our concerns over religious liberty to the Church’s teaching on sexuality and openness to new human life. Some of these will simply be catechetical, and others will encourage parishioners to take some needed action.

Fortnight of Prayer with the Saints

The Fortnight for Freedom includes the 14 days from June 21 — the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of religious persecution — to July 4, Independence Day. This time period will be dedicated to prayer, study, catechesis, and public action about both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. A series of suggestions in the areas of prayer and education for parishes to observe during this time period were sent to your parish. Obviously there are a variety of options that can be tailored to the local setting. I am encouraging all parishes to carry out at least one of these activities.

We also will be providing a variety of resources to parishes, including bulletin blurbs, inserts, and prayer cards. In one insert, scheduled to run during the month of May, you are encouraged to send an email message to the Department of Health and Human Services during its limited comment period. For more information about all of this, please visit either the USCCB web site, www.usccb.org or our web site, www.archlou.org/liberty.

Start saying the prayer now

One of the options presented to parishes is to include a prayer for religious liberty in the weekend liturgies during the fortnight period. I invite you to prepare by beginning to pray it now:
Almighty God, Father of all nations, for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties; by your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Honoring our Blessed Mother and all mothers

While the Kentucky Derby 2012 is over, Mother’s Day is just ahead of us. I hope everyone has the chance to pray in gratitude for your mother, whether living or deceased. I invite you to join me during this month of May in interceding with our Blessed Mother Mary that our affection for our own mothers will lead us to Christian action for all mothers and their children, especially those in dire need.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz1me14zrEg]

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