Fortnight for Freedom Opening Mass Homily

June 22, 2017 Print Version


Today is the feast of Saint Thomas More, which we celebrate as a Solemnity because he is the patron of our diocese and this cathedral. How providential that we do so at the same time the Church in the United States participates in the Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day period of intense prayer, education and witness in support of the protection of our most cherished right: religious freedom. We are blessed to have a patron who modeled courageous and faithful witness to the Faith he professed, the Truth he taught, and the Lord he loved, desiring nothing more than to be God’s loyal servant.

At this particular time in our nation and throughout our world, we see the countless ways religious freedom is under attack and the price others have to pay for remaining true to their beliefs. We are particularly reminded of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and throughout our world who are killed for doing so, and we pray especially for them at this Mass. 

Our forefathers correctly gave our nation’s citizens the right to practice their faith in accordance with their well-informed conscience and firm beliefs—a right that extended beyond the confines of a church building and into the public arena. Yet, sadly, we acknowledge that today our religious liberty is threatened, and churches, religious groups and organizations and individuals are under attack if they refuse to compromise their faith.

As we strive to protect our religious freedom, we are often unfairly and wrongly labeled and attacked. Just yesterday, one national publication went so far as to print an ad with a distasteful image of a bishop and a caption calling the Fortnight for Freedom “a discrimination campaign.” Can you imagine? The beliefs we seek to practice, to teach and to live are rooted in the Truth and Joy of the Gospel, including: that the sacredness of all human life is protected; the dignity of all persons is respected; and the poor and needy without exception are cared for with the utmost compassion. This is discrimination?

Yet, we continue to witness legislative attempts and public debates which seek to prevent us from bringing our beliefs into our society freed from government restrictions upon our religious liberty. That is why this year’s Fortnight theme is so appropriate: Freedom for Mission. Such a freedom that allows us to carry out the mission of loving God and serving others according to our beliefs, teachings and moral convictions is a gift to a society longing for peace, unity and the proper and respectful care of one another.

As we seek to be true to our faith, we are blessed with such wonderful examples, including St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, who suffered martyrdom rather than compromising their beliefs. We think of those in our own families and others who offered military service to our nation, including the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our religious freedom. Most especially, at this Eucharist, we see the perfect example of Jesus who suffered and died, ever obedient to His Father’s holy will. And we who receive His body and blood are also reminded that we must strive daily to imitate their example.     

Thus, strengthened with the Holy Eucharist, we dedicate ourselves to pray fervently for our elected officials so they will do what is right, just and holy; to participate peacefully in the political process so that our voices are heard; and to make sure on a daily basis we never compromise our beliefs and convictions within our workplaces, communities and homes so that we truly are faithful witnesses and God’s loyal servants—who are needed in our world and nation now more than ever! 

Allow me to conclude by using the remarks Pope Francis stated at the end of his talk during his pastoral visit to the United States and delivered at Independence Hall: “May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself.” 

May God bless America and each one of you today and forever and ever. Amen.


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