By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
From now through Independence Day, Catholics in the United States are encouraged to reflect upon their religious liberties, pray about religious freedom and take action.
These three suggestions are part of the annual Fortnight for Freedom observance, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It runs from June 21 to July 4 this year.
A special Fortnight for Freedom Mass was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Louisville on June 23 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Chapel, 15 Audubon Plaza Drive.
Father Patrick Dolan, a retired chaplain and brigadier general in the Army National Guard, celebrated the Mass on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Father Dolan, pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale, Ky., told the congregation of about 75 that the Fortnight for Freedom is an opportunity to consider “what religious liberty is all about” and “why we endeavor to make it happen.”
“The question becomes ‘how do we work for bettering the lives of people … all while being faithful to our Lord and God?’ ” he said.
Jesus did not take up arms to defend people, Father Dolan noted, nor did he engage in legal pursuits.
“He pushed back gently enough but with a firmness underneath that gentleness,” he said.
Father Dolan said Catholics must look to the example of St. Paul who was able to transform a large portion of the Mediterranean world “by bringing the freedom that allows the grace of God to work in us.”
“You bring that freedom also. You do it in two ways. One is simply by good example and prayer — the thing everyone can do. Good example and prayer — they go hand in hand.They make you shine like a beacon in the darkness of the empty world,” he said.
The second way to champion religious freedom is organizationally, Father Dolan said, whether by using legal action within a country to “maintain freedoms that are necessary” or sending the military into countries to defend those who are persecuted.
“And sometimes nations have to listen to the words of the Old Testament: ‘You shall not stand by idly while your neighbor’s life is at stake.’ It doesn’t mean to use all kinds of senseless violence, but sometimes we do interpose ourselves and say, ‘No, we will not let you do this wrong. I’m as big as you are and we are going to have it out ourselves.’ Sometimes we have to send the military places.
“We have an obligation to help defend others who can’t defend themselves,” he said.
Father Dolan noted that religious persecution still permeates numerous countries throughout the world, and he has served in several in the Army National Guard, including Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“The question that we face is what do we do to be able to try to address those wrongs in right and true and Christ-like ways? Good example and prayer are always good.
“May you through prayer and good example be able to be beacons of religious freedom. May you also be able to know how to wisely stand up to support those who need your help or to even intersperse yourself individually or organizationally where its needed to stop evil form happening,” he said.
For additional Fortnight for Freedom information, visit usccb.org/fortnight.