Dear Parishioners:On the Fourth of July we conclude our national Fortnight of Prayer for Religious Freedom. This special time of prayer, education and action began with a beautiful Mass at our Cathedral on June 20th with Bishop Tobin, twenty priests and over 500 Catholics praying together for religious liberty. The Mass was followed by a Prayer Breakfast with a keynote address by Law Professor Dwight Duncan who suggested:
“It’s a bit of a Paul Revere moment. Only this time it’s not the British that are coming. It’s Big Brother. Or, if you prefer, think of Rosa Parks. We can go along and sit quietly in the back of the bus, or we can stand up for human dignity and the rights of conscience. When it comes to our precious heritage of religious freedom, we must either use it or lose it. “
In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Tobin told those gathered to defend religious freedom – “a right that belongs to every human being” and “a right bestowed on us by almighty God.” He called on the faithful to lead the defense of religious liberty guided by and inspired by the church’s pastors. He told the large crowd that “this is your work, your mission.” Bishop Tobin is right that this defense of religious liberty is for all of us to engage in not only bishops and priests. However, the effectiveness of defending our religious liberty ultimately depends on the vitality of our own Catholic faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it.
The defense of religious liberty is not new at all, our first bishop in the United States, Archbishop John Carroll — whose cousin, Charles, signed the Declaration of Independence — constantly urged the tiny Catholic flock of his time to pray in thanksgiving for the freedom promised us to exercise our faith without harassment from anybody, government included, and to pray for its protection. Nor is it uniquely American, for that matter. What people of every faith have always longed for — the liberty to worship God and live out their religious convictions without oppression — finally came to be fulfilled in the country whose 236th birthday we will observe this July 4th.
Happy Independence Day! Enjoy the holiday on Wednesday, enjoy the picnics and the fireworks but please pray and proudly defend your religious liberty too! God Bless. God Bless America!