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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Fortnight? What's that all about?

Fortnight for Religious Freedom, what’s that all about?  It sounds pretty old fashioned, doesn’t it?
Well, to a certain extent it is. “Fortnight” comes from old English and means 14 days or 2 weeks.  I think someone with the US Bishop’s Conference thought it was a clever use of the word.  What these two weeks are about though are very modern and very important to us.  

The two weeks begin with the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.  (St. John was an English bishop and Thomas was a lawyer and had served as Chancellor under King Henry VIII.  To make a long story very short: Henry wanted to marry Anne, but could not get an annulment, so he did it anyway declaring authority over the Church and forcing everyone to sign a pledge to affirm his decision.  John Fisher and Thomas More both refused to do so and were beheaded for their troubles.) The closing is July 4, the day of our nation’s independence.

There have been some attempts in the United States to encroach on this freedom.  This is of concern because religious liberty is one of the great hallmarks of our country from the very beginning.  The Supreme Court has upheld this liberty, as recently as this past January when they ruled 9-0 against the administration’s attempts to dictate the hiring practices of a religious school.  

This is not a time of prayer for the Catholic Church takeover of the US government.  That is not the role or desire of the Church.  It is a time to celebrate this very special right and to ask God’s protection of it. The US Bishops have put together some resources for these two weeks, including a daily study on the Church’s teaching of religious liberty.  You can find them here:

Also, there is a prayer that we are encouraged to pray each day.  Here is a copy of that: 

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

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.

For over 200 years, religious groups have had the ability to preach the gospel, to practice their religion and to participate in the democratic process freely.  Let us pray that that tradition continues.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Do You Believe God Exists?

I read yesterday that the Pew Forum found in a recent survey that 68% of Millenials state that they have never doubted the existence of God.  Well, it is good news that close to 2/3 of the age group can say this.  It is troubling though that this is a 15% drop in five years. (  Why the drop?

Well, I suppose one could say that the Millenials are now living on their own or in college. Perhaps their thinking has “matured” or they have struggled with real issues that they had been shielded from as children and youth.  The problem with that is that this hasn’t happened with previous generations.
I tend to think that it is the result of an extreme individualism that is prevalent.  The thought is that religion is something that you keep to yourself.  This creates a problem, religion that is not shared or celebrated isn’t religion and is not life sustaining. It quickly dies.

I recall hearing Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a conversation with a Jewish Rabbi, state that throughout history God has always dealt with us as a people, not individuals.  Jesus’ own words come to mind from Matthew’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20)  The ancient Greek philosophers also held that the human person is a social being, we need others to survive and to flourish.

This is why everything the Catholic Church does is somehow connected to the community.  It isn’t to sustain an institution, it is to sustain life and help us in growing in our awareness as children of God and our friendship with God.  There is an individual component, we need to take time to be alone with God and ourselves.  There are even some benefits to the American concern about privacy.  The concern is without others, our focus can become me, and I can replace God as my ultimate destiny.  The only possible outcome is, well, death.  What God offers us goes beyond the limits of humanity.

 Here is a video from Fr. Robert Barron about the larger question, why believe in God?