Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Homily on Religious Freedom

A little tardy in posting this, but I just received a copy of this homily by one of my Deacons delivered at the Mass kicking off the Fortnight for Freedom initiative. Just because the FoF initiative is over, does not mean we should stop praying, learning about the issues and taking action. The HHS Mandate is still public law.

Deacon Ken received a strong round of applause after the homily, which is a rarity in a Catholic church after a homily.

A Homily on the Fortnight for Freedom, 6/23/2012
By Deacon Ken

We are all aware of the advice that one should never discuss religion or politics in a social setting, especially in church. It's a sure recipe for immediate controversy. But like all things, there is a time and place to discuss these topics. However, we frequent we seem to take this advice to in extreme — we never talk about faith in public.

We further compound this by mistakenly take the notion of "separation of church and state" to an extent that was never intended by our founding fathers...and to an extent that is not compatible with Catholic teaching.

We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should be instead complementary.

That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding fathers in our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.

We cannot claim to be true disciples, and at the same time leave our religious principles at the doorstep of our homes or leave them out of certain discussions. To be authentic Christians, every aspect of our lives must be infused with the gospel. Our faith must shape our political views and actions.

Faith is not just a private matter. We cannot be true followers of Jesus and at the same time compartmentalize our lives so that our faith is confined to certain aspects but is included from excluded from others.

Often there are no simple concrete answers, but concerns for the dignity of each person and concern for the poor and needy must be part of what we as Christians bring to our society.

We need to address those areas of our personal and public lives where we justify leaving our faith and morals on the sidelines instead of bringing them into the heart of the fray. We need to bring our faith-based moral principles into the public square and the government and underline should not hinder us in doing so. One step about defending religious liberty is to talk about it, to make sure people understand religious liberty is not given by government, but by God.

The main intention of the First Amendment is to protect our free exercise of religion and prevent the government from enter either promoting or interfering with the practice of religion. In recent years, it seems that various federal, state and local laws and policies have been either attacking or eroding this protection.

As a result, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling for a "Fortnight for Freedom" to focus attention and action on protecting religious freedom in the United States. The fourteen days from June 21 (the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas more) to July 4, Independence Day, are being dedicated to this effort.

The church's liturgical calendar celebrates many great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, such as St. John Fisher and St. Thomas more, St. John the Baptist, and SS. Peter and Paul, to name just a few.

Culminating on the day we celebrate our independence and freedom, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

[Our] parish, will be speaking about this topic at a special presentation on Monday, June 25, at 6:30 PM in the large meeting room by Mr. Patrick Cacchione, Executive Director of the Illinois Catholic Health Organization, he will speak on key issues involved in the "Fortnight for Freedom" effort.

Mr. Cacchione will speak on why these important Catholic ministries that serve both Catholic and non-Catholics are essential parts of our church's mission. We invite you to come to learn about the key issue in the "Fortnight for Freedom" campaign.

As we observe this fortnight (and beyond), you and I need to educate ourselves on the issues, which are often only superficially covered (and often slanted from the “right” or "left") in the media, while ignoring the inflammatory, distorting rhetoric used on both sides.

We need to look at societal issues with the moral lens rather than the purely political or financial lens we normally employ. We need to spend time praying over the issues that affect the larger community (and not just those which affect "me" directly). And we need to take action by voicing our consciences to those in leadership roles within our government and society.

You can learn more about the Fortnight for Freedom at the bishops website, There you can also find the statement they issued on the topic of religious freedom, entitled "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty."

Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?

Without religious liberty properly understood,  all-American suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here and at home and overseas.

I would like to close this prayer for our nation:

Almighty God, father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus. 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, our patroness of these United States 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, forever and ever. Amen

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