The Fortnight for Freedom started on June 21st in Baltimore with an Opening Mass for the Feast of St. Thomas More & St. John Fisher. I was privileged to attend this beautiful service that was filled with people from many dioceses including many bishops, priests, nuns, and lay faithful. This was a very special Mass that everyone in attendance felt a great energy of spirit, faith, and patriotism. Archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori, was the celebrant and homilist and he delivered a fantastic homily that was met with enthusiastic applause (rare during a Mass, but this was a special and important event in the history of the American Catholic Church). Archbishop Lori delivered a sermon that showed the history and wisdom of our faith, and how serious the gravity of the issues of religious freedom are now being threatened. Archbishop Lori and all the U.S. Bishops calling us all to stand united in prayer and action in defending religious freedom. I was very impressed with Archbishop Lori who took the time to shake hands with all the people who attended the Mass afterwards–very good shepherd of the church. Here is a link from USCCB of the full text of the homily from Archbishop Lori (June 21, 2012):
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) started this Fortnight for Freedom as a campaign to get all the diocese to participate in prayer, fasting, education, and action to support the protection of religious freedom. A fortnight is a period of fourteen days, and this fortnight will culminate ceremoniously on July 4th in Washington D.C. There are great resources of reflections, prayers, and suggested activities for parishes and diocese on their website for Fortnight for Freedom, they even just added a new text messaging feature (Text “Freedom” to 377377).
The event in Baltimore was a peaceful event, and there were a handful of demonstrators across from the Basilica. Ironic that the people demonstrating across from the church gain their freedom of right to free speech and to peacefully assemble from the 1st Amendment where the right to freedom of religion also is protected.
To begin the Fortnight of Freedom, the bishops chose the Basilica of the National Shrine to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of its importance as the cradle of religious freedom in American Catholic history. It was the first metropolitan Cathedral in American dedicated in 1821, and designed by Henry Latrobe, who was also the architect of the United States Capitol. Many historic events have taken place at the Baltimore Basilica including the funeral Mass of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and cousin of Archbishop John Carroll. The Councils of Baltimore held here in the 19th century established the parish system, mandated parochial schools, launched the Catholic University of America, and commissioned the famous Baltimore Cathechism.
During the last 200 years, visitors to the Basilica have included dignitaries and historical figures from around the world including Blessed Pope John Paul II, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, President Andrew Jackson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Chief Whitefeather of the Sioux Tribe. At least 15 saints or potential saints have prayed in the Basilica. It is worth your time to visit this holy site that has much more to offer than I can include in this blog–more in links below.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has just written a book, True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Freedom, to help educate the faithful about the religious liberty and he illustrated this from many supporting texts in the Bible and from saints and church doctrines. The book can be downloaded with excerpts from his recent book, A People of Hope, for just 99 cents at many outlets including iTunes and Amazon. I have just read the 26 page book on my iPad and highly recommend it on your reading list.
The patron saint for religious freedom is St. Thomas More who stood up for his Catholic faith and paid for it with his life. Fr. Robert Barron has a great short video about St. Thomas More, and about the movie A Man for All Seasons below:
Father Barron also commented on the recent statements from Secretary Sebalius and Maureen Dowd:
Catholic Vote is an organization that is also behind an effort to support religious freedom came out with a very well made short video that illustrates the importance of the issue very well.
I will be blogging on a few more events for the Fortnight of Freedom, stay tuned:
1) I will be attending the Diocese of Richmond Mass with Bishop Francis Dilorenzo at Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 24th.
2) Please consider joining us for a prayer service, Sunday, July 1st at 7pm at the 1st Amendment Monument on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. We will be singing songs and praying, and people are encouraged to write on the Free Speech Wall.
3) I will be attending the concluding Mass on July 4th at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. My cousin, Monsignor Charles Pope, will also be concelebrating with Cardinal Wehrl and Bishop Chaput.
Fortnight for Freedom (United Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty (USCCB)
O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.