They are calling this a "Fortnight for Freedom."
Of course, the principal threat is President Obama's mandate that all employers, including all faith- or religious-based institutions, provide contraceptives and drugs that can cause abortions, as part of health care. The "exception" is extremely narrow, and as of this writing, does not clearly exempt our Catholic hospitals, charities and universities, and whether other schools are in the clear is very much in doubt. Employers are clearly not exempt--your consciences don't matter to our government.
While this is a grave and unprecedented threat to religious freedom for our country, it isn't the only one. At least two other threats loom on the horizon:
> In Alabama and in other states, legislation aimed at problems connected with illegal immigration has, in some cases, threatened the freedom of religious organizations to provide charitable and even spiritual care for people who are in this country illegally. While the government has a legitimate authority to regulate immigration, government goes too far when it makes it illegal to provide food, medical care, and the sacraments. Legislation in some places has raised questions in this regard.
> With various forces seeking to redefine marriage to include two people of the same sex, religious organizations are facing exclusion from adoptions, because they will not agree that a "marriage" of two people of the same sex is a family in the usual sense. There is the issue of whether someone will be guilty of illegal discrimination if one refuses to participate in such a marriage. In one case, a wedding photographer was sued for refusing; in another case, a Methodist-owned facility was told it had to rent its premises for a same-sex "marriage." There is opposition in Congress and the White House to clear protections for military chaplains from being forced to witness such "marriages."
No doubt other examples can be cited.
So that our parishes can do our part, today I spent some time trying to flesh out some plans. And while our parish plans may change, I thought it would be helpful, to other folks, including other pastors, to know what I came up with. It follows below.
A shout-out to folks in Piqua: there will be work involved in all this, and I sure could use help. Give the parish offices a call at (937) 773-1327 if you want to be a helper. We'll figure out something for you to do!
While my plans below don't describe what the Archdiocese is doing, I found out today that good things are in the works, and information will be provided in a few days.
Please feel free to share this far and wide. Let's (first) storm Heaven, and then "storm" the halls of government, that our freedom to practice our faith be assured.
Again--with the understanding that this is subject to change, here's what I'm planning:
‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Plan
Dates: June 21-July 4
National Plans: For full details, see US Bishops’ site at: http://new.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/index.cfm
June 21—Mass in Baltimore Basilica, 7 pm.
July 4—Mass in DC Basilica, 12:10 pm, televised on EWTN.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FortnightforFreedom
Archdiocesan Plans: In the works
1. We will begin promoting the “Fortnight for Freedom” beginning Saturday June 2 at all Masses. (See attached announcements.)
2. Beginning June 2-3, until July 4, all priests will be asked to look for ways to talk about this in homilies. (See attached information.)
3. The Archdiocese is providing prayer cards for religious liberty. These will be distributed in the parishes during June, sometime between June 2 and June 17.
4. Beginning June 17, through July 31, at the conclusion of Mass, before the final hymn (if there is one), the priest will lead everyone in the prayer for religious liberty.
5. During our Corpus Christi Celebration, June 8-10, we will give special emphasis to praying for our nation.
6. All priests are asked, during the weekends of June 16-17, June 23-24, and June 30-July 1, to address the following topics: (1) Present threats to religious freedom—this should include the Catholic teaching that is at stake (i.e., why is this worth fighting over?); (2) The “Fortnight for Freedom” and why we must come together and the opportunities provided; (3) Explaining both the peril and the promise—this is serious, but we have Christ!; and finally, (4) outlining the concrete things we can do, together, to be part of this prayer.
7. For each day from June 21 to July 4, the Mass offered for that day will be offered with a special emphasis—i.e., on June 21, the Mass will be “for the Church” and later, we will have a Mass “for persecuted Christians.” Whatever priest has the Mass will use these prayers if at all possible.
8. This information will be distributed in the parishes June 16-17, so that all parishioners can attend, or at least pray for the indicated intention that day, even if unable to attend Mass.
9. This will include Mass on the two Saturdays, at 8 am; however, if there should be a funeral, or one of the priests has an emergency, these Masses may have to be cancelled.
10. Every parishioner will be invited to offer prayers, fasting and sacrifices during this period.
11. Fasting: I ask everyone 18-59 and in good health to pick a day for voluntary fasting.
12. Sacrifice: I ask that everyone who cannot fast, to choose to give up something as a sacrifice during this period. These commitments are not binding in conscience—meaning, a failure to keep the commitment is not a sin.
13. A “tote board” will be put up in each parish, and in the chapel, on which people can write their promises of prayers and sacrifices; our goal will be to fill these “tote boards” and then all will see the collective effort we are making.
14. Holy Hours: I will ask all parishioners who are able to visit church or chapel to make two holy hours, one per week, during this period. Those who cannot visit church or chapel are asked to find an hour, or however much time, at home, to pray. Two times will be published—one during the day, one in the evening—when folks are invited to join together in the chapel.