Monday, June 23, 2014

Intercessory Prayer and the Fortnight for Freedom

     As a seminarian, with more than a little “academic” bent to my life, I am still surprised when people I meet in conversation will respond, “I didn’t know that!” to what I might consider basic tenets of our Church teaching.  Reflecting on this phenomena a bit, I realize that I shouldn’t be surprised, because I often say the same thing.

     A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend about annual appraisals, which sort of took me back to my past. After mentoring and managing people for more than 30 years in business, I recall that often, I and other managers would speak about the need for staff to take part in their own “self-directed education” in order to advance. That begs the question: in our Church life, how many of us actively pursue expanding our knowledge through self-directed learning? 
     This weekend, the Fortnight for Freedom began, running from June 21st to July 4th. On their website, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops ( states: “The theme of this year's Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching.”

     That message seems, to me, to be so basic; if someone desires to help the poor and the marginalized, shouldn’t we all - including our civic leaders - cheer them on, and perhaps offer to help, too? But a simple review of the fact sheet the USCCB offers illustrates that for an organization such as the Catholic Church, there are multiple civil and legal attacks on the freedom to serve the poor.

     Most of my readers I expect continue to be aware and concerned about the US Department of Health and Human Services mandate that runs counter to our Church teaching on sterilization, contraception and abortion. But there is more to the focus of the Fortnight:

- Who would have guessed that Catholic foster care and adoption services have been driven out of business in places like Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the entire state of Illinois?

- Would you have guessed that the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services, offered for years while working with the federal government, had its contract changed because the government required them to refer people for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of our Catholic teaching?

     More examples could be cited, but it could be more effective for my blog readers to explore these limitations on our freedom yourselves. Type into your browser, and continue your “self-directed learning” about the threats to living out the Gospel; I hope and pray that you will be glad that you did.

     For my part, I found it interesting that the bishops mention the saints on our Roman Calendar during these next few days whose lives reflect a political dimension. From reading about their lives, we will better understand that this is not something new only in our 21st century.

June 22nd – Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs

     Fisher, Bishop or Rochester, and More, Lord Chancellor, where both martyred for defending the teaching of the Church against King Henry VIII, especially in regard to the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Today, the same sanctity and permanence of marriage is being challenged from within our secular society that has reduced marriage to a commodity, governed more by popular media than centuries-old Church teaching.

June 24th – The Birth of Saint John the Baptist, Martyr

     Jesus’ cousin was martyred for speaking out against the marriage of Herod to his brother’s wife, Herodias. We find here one of the earliest martyrdoms in our Church history where the defense of marriage was one of the charges held against the Saint.

June 28th – Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

     This 2nd century bishop and martyr is known for his defense of Christianity, including his early creed that served as the precursor of the Nicaea formula of faith to be promulgated a century after Irenaeus taught – and died in 202 A.D. – for the Christian faith against tyrannical Rome, under Emperor Septimus Severus' persecutions.

June 29th – Saints Peter and Paul Apostles and Martyrs

     Both Peter and Paul would be put to death for their leadership of the emerging Christian faith. Each wrote for us some of the strongest texts about standing firm in faith in the face of any trials and attacks. Consider spending some time reflecting on 1 Cor 16:13 or 1 Peter 5:8-10.

July 1st – Blessed Junipero Serra

     Serra was the 18th century Franciscan whose passion for the faith led him, on his missionary journey, to found missions along the Pacific coast, nine throughout California. We find in Blessed Serra that foundation of faith upon which our country has been founded.

     As you consider the prayers of the Church during this Fortnight of Freedom, please reflect on the many saints whose lives offered complete witness to the Gospel … for many, unto their martyr’s death. We have them to thank, and to intercede for us during this critical time in our country.
 (From the USCCB Prayer for the Fortnight of Freedom)

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