Thank you to all who stayed to pray today after the 10:30 AM mass for religious liberty in our country and in the world. We prayed the litany suggested by and composed by the American bishops which was quite beautiful and very appropriate.
Our campaign to collect signatures for letters to our elected representatives is ongoing and there were letters available for signing after all the masses this weekend. To date, almost 1000 signatures have been collected and letters mailed.
"Do not be afraid, just have faith." I hope these words of Jesus go straight to our minds and hearts this weekend; how sorely we need to hear them.
In the face of sin, illness, even death, Jesus reassures us. How much more should we be reassured in the face of disorder in our relationships, finance, politics, family? Increase our faith, O Lord!
There is a surely a crisis of faith, both secular and religious. All human institutions and promises are undergoing a trial: do we mean what we say, can we trust anyone's promise? Can we rely on each other? These questions are serious enough, but the crisis of religious faith tempts us to believe we cannot or better not rely on God. Or equally perilous, we might come to believe that our faith is simply an inner assertion of belief which carries no obligations to live a faith-filled life.
Our faith is a precious gift and it must be nurtured and protected. How many times, if we're honest, have we chosen fun over faith? Our amusement and leisure time is important, but so is preserving some of it to nurture and practice our faith.
Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning in October 2012. In calling for a year of prayer and action to nurture our faith, he reminds us that Mary's "yes", her life of discipleship from Bethelehem to Golgotha, her taste of the fruits of Jesus' resurrection and participation in the formation and life of the early Church at Pentecost - all were acts of faith. The first apostles left everything in fatih and preached everywhere. This very faith which has been handed down to us by countless men and women so that we can recognize Jesus in the Eucharist and in each other, in our church and in our history.
Faith has both an intellectual and spiritual component. We hope our faith resides down deep in our hearts, but it is also fed by our mind and our reason. To nurture our faith, we need acts of prayer and charity, the Eucharist, the sacraments, but we also need to read, study, appropriate the faith for each stage of our journey. There is a rich content to the faith, even called "the deposit of faith," a rich tradition and beautifully clear Church teachings for us to know and understand. In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Bishop O'Connell has proclaimed that the preaching on the second Sunday of each month be reserved for teaching an important aspect of our faith, church tradition or church teaching.
We must appreciate how threatened our faith can become by simple everyday events, if we don't take precautions to strengthen and protect it. The books we read, the news we hear, the movies we see, the conversations we have and the jokes we laugh at; the friends we keep, the things we buy, the ad campaigns we respond to, the way we permit our children to dress, the song lyrics they carry around in their heads, the trends we become part of...all these can be a slow and relentless drip, drip, drip eroding the foundations of our faith. Without reparative and preventive measures, we should not be surprised to discover at a funeral, or a wedding, or the doctor's office, that when we turn to rely on our faith...it has collapsed.
This weekend, especially, we remind ourselves that our civic freedom also needs protection. If we fail to nurture and protect our liberties, pay little heed to world events, our nation's history, or political discourse, our freedoms will wither or be clipped and trimmed into a shape our forbearers wouldn't even recognize.
Today we join in prayer for the preservation of faith and freedom in our nation and in the world. This will become more important as specific articles of our faith bring us into conflict with the political and moral climate of our country, but also with a militant secularism which strives to sanitize God from any American public discussion. Some seek to regulate our Catholic charities and our Catholic teaching institutions no differently than MacDonalds or Walmart. We are different! What we do and how we do it springs directly from our faith, which we must be free to practice in private and in public.
Faith and our freedom to practice it is a God given liberty, which today we acknolwedge, has required heroic human sacrifice to preserve. Let us resolve today to reinforce both faith and freedom by prayer, reading and study, by witness and whenever necessary by willing sacrifice.