In response to current grave threats to religious liberty in America, especially that presented by the Obama administration's unjust contraceptive mandate, our Catholic bishops have declared a Fortnight for Freedom--a national two-week period of prayer, fasting, education, and advocacy in support of religious freedom. It began yesterday, June 21, and will run through July 4, our great national holiday of Independence Day. The event officially began last night at 7 PM Eastern Time with an Opening Mass celebrated at the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland, and it will officially end with a Closing Mass celebrated July 4 at 12:10 PM ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The latter event will be televised nationally on EWTN. You can find out more about this special event by clicking here and scrolling down to where it says "A Fortnight for Freedom"; the bishops have more good info and resources here as well as at Fortnight4Freedom.org. You can participate in the special activities your local parish is offering, which will vary from parish to parish. You can also sign up to participate in the Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty that the Catholic Advocate is offering. EWTN is airing special programming throughout this time and has set up a new website devoted entirely to religious liberty, so be sure to check those out as well.
As a younger American Catholic, it's refreshing to see the excellent leadership our bishops are showing on this issue. They have courageously risen up and are standing united to meet this challenge, sounding the alarm and speaking the truth as befits successors of the Apostles and patriotic citizens. They deserve our wholehearted support and thanks, and let's remember to keep them in our prayers too. Their example should encourage us to fulfill our own duties as lay Catholics and citizens to be present and active in the public square in defending the religious freedom and conscience rights of all Americans. In this battle for religious freedom, prayer is our most important weapon, but political activism is essential as well. As Catholics we must pray, and as citizens we must act. Prayer and action have to go together if this effort is to be successful.
I find it significant that the U.S. Supreme Court will be issuing a landmark decision on religious liberty right in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom. I think Divine Providence has a hand in this. As our justices decide the constitutionality of the sweeping new healthcare legislation underpinning HHS mandate, millions of Catholics across our nation will be praying and fasting for the protection of religious liberty. Prayer and fasting are powerful spiritual weapons that can change the course of history, especially when they are taken advantage of en masse as is happening right now. Let's continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will grant wisdom to our judges and inspire them to make the right decision on the mandate, i.e., to uphold our Constitution and protect our First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
With firm trust in Divine Providence and under the reassuring protection of our Immaculate Mother Mary, Patroness of the United States, let us join together in prayer, fasting, and political action for the restoration and protection of the religious liberty on which America was founded. And let's bear in mind that no matter what happens, we win in the end through the power of Christ's Cross and Resurrection.
I'll close with two religious liberty quotes from America's Founding Fathers. The first is from James Madison, often called the “father” of the U.S. Constitution: "There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom.” The second is from Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence: “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”
Let freedom ring!