They were Catholic, Congregationalist, Deist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Unitarian. From many different backgrounds, representing many religions, they stood united for liberty. It is no wonder that when America gained her independence and when the founders gathered to draft the Constitution, that the “First Freedom” in the Bill of Rights guaranteed religious freedom to all Americans, no matter what their background, no matter what their religion. For those who signed the Declaration of Independence and then drafted the Constitution, religious freedom was central to who they were as Americans.
Whatever the challenges priests might face, they continue to stand as living links in a chain reaching back over 20 centuries to connect with the very person of Christ. Through the Eucharist they celebrate, the Gospel they preach, the baptisms they administer, the confessions they hear, the marriages they witness, and the anointing of the sick and dying, priests bring Christ to their people, and people to Christ. For that, we thank them, and we thank God for the gift of the priesthood.
In this holiness rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit and manifested in the sacramental life of the Church, particularly the Eucharist, the Church continues in spite of the many sins of its members. In spite of this sin, the holiness of Christ’s Church continues to be evident wherever the Catholic faith is lived sincerely in the lives of the faithful followers of Christ.
This call to action should not end with the Fortnight, however, and as heralds of the New Evangelization, each of us are called to deepen our own appreciation of our faith, renew our confidence in its truth and be prepared to share it with others.
In his 1790 letter responding to the nation’s Catholics, President Washington expressed gratitude for the sacrifices that Catholics had made in helping to secure liberty for the new nation: “I presume that your fellow citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government….” Washington emphasized his belief in the importance of all members of the community being “equally entitled to the protection of civil government.
For the first time in our land we have a generation raised and nurtured in the conviction that if life is inconvenient to you, you may freely destroy it.
Perhaps more than anything else at the root of the continuing violence in our society is the reduction of human life to a commodity, a property, something we feel we own as a possession. That attitude is exactly what comes across so often when we hear in the current national debate on so many life related issues the argument that “My life belongs to me,” “What I do with my life is my business,” “When life is inconvenient either before it is born or at the end of its cycle, it can be terminated.
We in the Church, as the body of Christ in today’s world, are all called to carry out the New Evangelization, to deepen and share our faith, and to take up the challenge and the mission of building up Christ’s kingdom and manifesting his saving love, here and now.
None of us have the power to create life nor to bring it back once it is gone. In the long-standing Judeo-Christian tradition, we speak of the sacredness of human life because we recognize that it is ultimately a gift.
In an increasingly secular society, we find a growing intolerance for expressions of faith, particularly in the public square. Some may say that’s just the way things are now. There are times, though, when we are compelled – as Catholics and as Americans – to stand up in defense of the rights bestowed on us by our Creator and protected by the United States Constitution. This is one of those times.
If the religious exemption in this case were reasonable, there would have been no need for this lawsuit — after all, we are indeed “religious” under any sensible definition. But this mandate’s religious exemption is the narrowest ever adopted in federal law. For example, it doesn’t include any organization that serves the general public.
I myself am a proud and grateful alumnus of this institution of highest learning, having left here thirty years ago … and just finished paying my tuition … sorry to bring that up! …; and because I am deeply grateful, as a Catholic, and as an American, for the iconic value of this, The Catholic University of America.
This is the first time I have worn red since I was made a cardinal. I forgot my red sash. Luckily Cardinal Wuerl has an extra … well, two extras.
Each child by the time he or she is ready to go off to kindergarten should be capable of such basic Christian responses as the sign of the cross, age appropriate morning and evening prayers and, of course, grace before and after meals.