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The Path of Repentance

Many times in our rushed day-to-day existence we have the tendency to rush along, and in moments of grace we lift our eyes to heaven with desire to walk closer with God. It is these moments that our hearts are open to reform our lives.

For those of us who work in pastoral ministries, we encounter souls in these moments. When we do, we can point them on the right path with a little help from Saint John Chrysostom. In his homily, De Diabolo Tentatore (2,6: PG 49, 263-264), he writes:

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified. For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: I said: I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart. Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance: condemnation of your sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For, though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your wrath, be humble, pray diligently and condemn your own sins; poverty is no hindrance. Poverty is not an obstacle to our carrying out the Lord’s bidding, even when it comes to that path of repentance which involves giving money (almsgiving, I mean). The widow proved that when she put her two mites into the box!

Now that we have learned how to heal these wounds of ours, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today, let us take courage then, and take up Chrysostom’s path of repentance. In our own walking of this path we may find others on the road who will take up the journey too because of our example.

Have a blessed day.

Related posts:

Confession
Miserere
Why Go to Confession
Stumbling Blocks

Read the Bible in a Year?

Sr_Lisa:

Ever wanted to get through the Bible in a year but didn’t know where to start? Here is a daily audio podcast/blog that makes it easy. Why not check it out?

Originally posted on Catholic Bible 365:

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 38-39
Psalm 25
Matthew 14:1-21

Listen to today’s Podcast! CB365 Day 26 (click the link)

CathBible365— 

Notes:  “Come on, no one will know.” Have we ever thought or heard this before?

This is part of the problem of our fallen nature, from the beginning of Genesis to our modern day. Today’s readings point to this weaker side of our human nature:

  • Er, Judah’s first born, ‘greatly offended the Lord’ (only God knows what he did; it is not mentioned);
  • Onan, Judah’s second born, ‘greatly offended the Lord’ by not providing offspring for his brother’s widow;
  • Judah himself seeks a prostitute; and
  • Herod has taken his brother Philip’s wife as his own.

The examples from Genesis were all done under the cloak of secrecy. No one knew what they were up to. That is, no one but God. But as time progresses, and we do not listen…

View original 311 more words

Communion of Saints, John Nava, 2002 O5H0166

A New Year – A Saint Companion 2014

As we approach another new year, people naturally start looking at what they can do to better themselves. Here are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions people have planned for this year:

resolutions10. More Family Time
9.  Fall in Love
8.  Help Others
7.  Quit Smoking
6.  Learn Something Exciting
5.  Stay Fit and Healthy
4.  Enjoy Life to the Fullest
3.  Spend Less, Save More
2.  Get Organized
1.  Lose Weight

(Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology)

Some of these are usual suspects in annual resolutions. But I thought number 6 was pretty neat – Learn Something Exciting. And I think I am going to adopt that one for myself! 

But I also wanted to share with you and annual tradition in our Canossian communities that might fit as a Category 6, Category 4 and Category 8 events for you:  

Make this year a great one by journeying with a Saint!

It’s a great opportunity to be inspired by someone who found the sweet spot between living life and growing toward holiness at the same time. You always have that saint accompanying you in your prayer and daily routine. The Church has so many examples to choose from … the question is, then, how do we pick one?

1.  A spiritual director told me once, “We don’t choose Saints; they choose us.” If this is the case, we should begin praying, asking our unknown saint to reveal him/herself to us.

2.  Keep your eyes and ears open. Saints can adopt us throughout the year (this past year I received St. Francis of Assisi on New Years, and St Raphael the Archangel during my annual retreat. Saint Padre Pio kept interrupting my life off and on throughout the year as well). Maybe the holy card you were given was put in your path because that saint wants to help you. Or that book you received on a particular saint ended up in  your hands because that saint wants to accompany you. Or maybe a particular quotation or passage from a saint kept turning up in your email or reading. Maybe you came across a saint you didn’t know well, and found yourself captivated by a particular virtue. These are all good reasons that maybe your patron saint is right under your nose, just waiting for you to welcome him/her into your life in 2014.

What? No saint has shown up? Then think about a vice or bad habit you have that you want to overcome. Look up a Saint that struggled with that particular vice, or is known to be effective in helping in that area:

Explosive temper? Saint Louis de Montfort.
Addiction? Saint Maximillian Kolbe (because he was injected with a drug that ended his life)
Suffer Anxiety and/or Mental Issues?  St Dymphna
Cussing/Swearing?  Saint Bernadine of Siena (he abhorred bad language)
Loneliness? Saint Rita of Cascia
Troubled Teenager?  Saint Dominic Savio
Alcoholism?  Venerable Matt Talbot
Work with Youth?  Venerable Fernanda Riva

And these are just a few.

Still stumped for a Saint?  You can use Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator that will randomly assign you a saint. It’s also a fun way to get to know some new Saints.

If you are looking for a more personalized saint-search, check out Marianne’s “I Want to Be a Saint Too 2014” Blog

3. Next, make a prayer card (or buy one) of your particular Saint, or print out a prayer from the internet. Put it in your prayerbook or Bible, somewhere you will see it everyday.

Find a book on your Saint, and read it. Get to know the Saint as an intimate friend. His or her life might have the key to unlock your troubles and set you free.

4. Leave a message in the comments below letting us know what Saint chose you. It might not make sense at first, but you will find through the year, if you ‘hang out’ with your Saint, you will find graces unfold!

In our Canossian family many of our communities continue the tradition of being given a patron saint. On New Year’s Day, we will each draw by lot our Patron Saint for 2014. I’ve written about this practice before, and we have had some awesome saints!

I can’t wait to find out which saint chooses me this year. What about you? Who chose you?

RELATED POSTS:

Elizabeth Scalia:  “O My 3 Patron Saints, Teach Me What You Know!”

What Saints did the Canossian Sisters receive?

What kind of Resolutions do Saints Make?

And here is another way to get a Saint, Micah Murphy’s Draw a Saint!

Christmas Mass with Pope Francis

“25 December. The twenty-second day of the lunar month. Innumerable ages having passed since the creation of the world…The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”

PapaFrancis

So are the beginning and ending words of the proclamation of the birth of the Savior at Midnight Mass. The words speak of the long waiting for the Savior from the beginning of time, culminating with the birth of Jesus. Christmas is here! What better way to celebrate with the Universal Church than to watch Midnight Mass unfold with Pope Francis at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Here is this year’s schedule of how to participate:r’s Basilica in Rome.

Step 1:  Download the Booklet for the Holy Mass of the Night here.

Step 2:  Choose where to watch (if you can’t be in Rome).

EWTN will be broadcasting with English translation at the following times:
12/24 at 3:30 PM ET; and 12/25 at 8:00 AM ET, and 7:00 PM ET

If you prefer to watch it without translation, and just follow with your Booklet, you can watch live from Rome, 3:30 PM ET (9:30 PM Rome Time), right here below:

Let us unite with one another in prayer for Pope Francis, and for all those he challenges us to reach out to, especially the most poor.

Blessed Christmas Everyone! Buon Natale a Tutti!
May the Child Jesus fill your hearts with His Love and Joy!

Urbi et Orbi

The Pope’s annual “Urbi et Orbi” message to the world will be given from Saint Peter’s Square on Christmas Day at 12pm Rome time (6.00 am ET / 3.00 am PT), and will be live-streamed above in the video window, via Centro Televisivo Vaticano.

Or, if you wish to watch with English translation, EWTN will broadcast on Christmas Day at 6:00 AM ET, 10:00 PM ET; and again
12/27 at 2:00 PM ET;
12/28 at 6:00 PM ET;
12/31 at 9:30 PM ET.

 

Pope Angelus

Pray & Fast for Peace

On Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged all of us to deepen our prayer for peace, both for Syria and for the world:

There are several ways by which to be in union with the Holy Father this Saturday:

1.  Go to Mass. It is the First Saturday as well, so you are more likely to find a Church that will celebrate Mass Saturday morning.

2.  Pray with the Holy Father via livestream, Saturday, 1PM ET

3.  Pray the Rosary together as a family.

4.  Offer your day for Pope Francis intentions.

5.  Invite others to pray too. The Pope has reached out to to “…every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe…” so to unite all under the banner of peace.

If you are willing, please share this post with others, that more may join us in this world day of fasting and prayer for what is needed in our world: Peace.

God bless you!

Pope Francis’ Angelus address in full:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Hello!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

QueenofPeaceTo this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

 

A Day of Prayer for Pope Benedict and the Church: Updated

ImageToday Pope Benedict XVI will vacate the Office of Peter at 8:00pm Rome Time, and the doors will be sealed.

It will be the last morning we will hear his name recited in the Eucharistic Prayer, and in the days to follow until a new Pope is elected, the phrase will be omitted.

It is a time for reflection of the gratitude for Benedict’s leadership of the Church, and for much prayer. What can we do to live this day in a spirit of prayer and gratitude?

You might want to follow the day live:

Radio Vaticana or EWTN live cam. His schedule:

Pope Benedict’s Farewell to the Cardinals:  11:00am Rome / 2:00am Pacific
corrected:  3:00pm Rome / 6:00am Pacific

The Pope’s move to Castel Gandolfo:  5:00pm Rome / 8:00am Pacific

Update: Benedict XVI’s Pontificate Ends:  on Radio Vaticana 7:45pm Rome / 11:45am Pacific

Attend Mass and pray for Pope Benedict.

You can join a worldwide Rosary at the hour of the Pope’s Benedict’s Pontificate ends, 8:00pm Rome / 11:00am.

If you are on Twitter, you can post a message of thanksgiving with the hashtag #ThanksPontifex.

Or, perhaps just reflect on these words from Pope Benedict’s sermon, Palm Sunday 2009:

“An upright life always involves sacrifice, renunciation. To hold out the promise of a life without this constant re-giving of self is to mislead. There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice.

 If I cast a glance back over my whole life, I have to say that it was precisely the moments when I said yes to renunciation that were the great and important moments of my life.”

Or pray for him with this indulgenced prayer.

Papa Benedetto, Papa Ratzi, we are with you.

Barely Saved

What would it be like to go to a doctor’s office for a check-up only to be told, “Sorry, the chances that you will overcome your current diagnosis are slim. I highly suggest you euthanize yourself.”

Foolish to think this way? Yes.

Would you get another opinion? Of course.

And yet, one mother experienced a similar situation when she was pregnant with her sixth child. She had German Measles (Rubella) and the doctor’s diagnosis wasn’t pretty. The child was to be born mentally challenged, with a cleft pallet, respiratory problems, blind and deaf. He suggested it would be better if she terminate her pregnancy. 

“Think about your other children and the burden this child would cause (both in time and money),”  he counselled. 

Foolish to think this way? Our society says, “No. It’s very reasonable. After all, she can have other children, right? She had five other children at home to think about.”

Should she get a second opinion? Or a third? Our society would ask, “What for? You’ve heard the outcome. The child has no hope for a normal life.”

The woman is confronted with a serious decision that threatens her conscience. She was taught that life is sacred. Could she simply choose to end the life that had begun in her by God’s grace? Isn’t God aware of the circumstances in His omniscience? 

Many women today are the battle ground between their conscience and public opinion. For 40 years, public opinion has won out, with the conscience numbed by the decision of Roe versus Wade, and the legalization of abortion in the United States. And, over the last 40 years, we have seen 59,477,972 (and counting by the minute) children’s lives terminated in the United States. This severance of life has flowed over the borders of America to the death of how many more children around the world in countries that followed suit in their policies, under the guise of ‘women’s health’? 

Is our society better off since then? The words of Pope Paul VI come back to us as a haunting prophecy. After mentioning how abortion is an illegal (by laws of the Church and man’s conscience) means of regulating children, he lists other unacceptable forms, including sterilization and contraception, and goes on to list the consequences if society does not heed this ‘warning’:

“Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

Humanae Vitae, Number 17, 1968

I ask again, Has our society become a better place since January 22, 1973? Are we better off with the absence of such a large percentage of the generations under 40 who lost their lives due to legally being slain in the womb of their mothers? 

No, our society is not better. Mother Teresa of Calcutta understood this well in her defense of the unborn:

“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, killings, of wars, or of hatred…If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”

Have we as a society lost all disregard for life that it is only valued if it doesn’t create burden to us? Where ‘mercy’ is re-defined as putting one to death because their prognosis suggests they cannot have a ‘full life’?  Who will judge? Who determines the fullness of another’s life? Who will protect the smallest, most vulnerable of our society?

And what about the woman in the story above? She did get a second opinion and was told the same. She would be better off aborting her child. She chose, rather, to listen to her conscience and to preserve her trust in God.

That woman is my mother. My life was saved because she didn’t follow the voice of ‘professionals’, but rather to the voice of her motherly heart.

Thank you Mom! 

Image

What can we do to overturn the tide of the closed heart?

1.  Pray and Fast for the end of abortion, and for the change of mentality about life in all its stages, that it is worth protecting. Some suggestions by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

2.  Use science to understand the truth of the development of the life in the womb. Here are some amazing pictures that may inspire you.

3. Show your support for life by joining one of the many ‘Walks for Life’ around the country. 

4. Know what the battle is about. Read this story about New York Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make late-term abortions unlimited and on demand. Yes, it’s come to this.

5. Pray some more, and ask your friends and family to do the same.

God bless you. 

Religious Life – A Question

As I write this, I am attending the 2012 National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) in Plano, Texas.

The very inspiring Keynote Address was given by Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, CSsR (Redemptorist) on the topic of vocation as a reconciling presence.

Discussing the importance of the witness of our vocations, he commented:

“Young people listen to the way we live more than to what we say.” 

What do you think? Is that how you read religious you see? Join the conversation!

Fortnight for Freedom – Day 14: Constitutional Guarantee of Religious Freedom

BLESSED INDEPENDENCE DAY EVERYONE!

DAY 14: Constitutional Guarantee of Religious Freedom

The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents. The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life difficult and dangerous for religious Communities.

This sacred Synod greets with joy the first of these two facts, as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The Synod exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family.

All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that weighs upon every man. All this is evident.

Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony may be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee, and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 15 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Fourteen

In concluding its Declaration of Religious Freedom, the Council rejoices in the fact that religious freedom has been enshrined in the constitutions of many countries as well as in international statements. However, the Council Fathers are well aware that religious freedom is not guaranteed merely when it is stated on a piece of paper. It must be exercised by a living body of people. Moreover, there are actual governments that act against religious communities, sometime in the name of religion. The Council Fathers find such situations appalling and ask that Catholics and all people of goodwill work to rectify this injustice.

Since the Vatican Council, has religious freedom improved or deteriorated throughout the world? What is the relationship between growing religious diversity, as well as growing interactions among people of different faiths, and religious liberty?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay FiveDay SixDay SevenDay EightDay NineDay TenDay ElevenDay Twelve, Day Thirteen

Fortnight for Freedom – Day 12: Full Measure of Freedom

DAY 12: Full Measure of Freedom

Among the things which concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth—things therefore which are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury—this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for salvation of men requires. This freedom is sacred, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. It is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 13 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Twelve

In Chapter I, the Council Fathers considered the nature of religious freedom from a rational and philosophical perspective—the dignity and equality of human beings and the natural right to religious liberty. In Chapter II, they turn to examining religious liberty in the light of Christian Revelation.

In this context, the Council Fathers forthrightly insist that the Church must “enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for salvation of men requires.” Jesus became man, died, and rose from the dead so that all men and women would come to salvation—to know the fullness of truth and the fullness of the Father’s love. This is why the Church’s religious freedom is “sacred.” Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, founded the Church as the means by which his saving message and presence would go forth to all the world. Only then would Jesus’ Gospel be lived out among all nations and peoples. Only if the Church is free can she rightly fulfill her divine commission. This is why the Church jealously guards her freedom while simultaneously fostering harmonious, appropriate, and just relations with various governments throughout the world.

What present circumstances threaten the freedom of the Catholic Church particularly? Are threats to the Church’s freedom always from without, or do threats arise from within the Church itself? What threats in the past has the Church in our country had to contend with?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay FiveDay SixDay SevenDay EightDay NineDay Ten, Day Eleven

Fortnight for Freedom – Day 11: Religious Freedom and Conflict

DAY 11: Religious Freedom and Conflict

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order.

These norms arise out of the need for effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights. They flow from the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice. They come, finally, out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality. These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order.

For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range. These require that the freedom of man be respected as far as possible, and curtailed only when and in so far as necessary. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 7 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Eleven

The Council Fathers are well aware that, while various religious groups are meant to live in harmony, each accepting the equal rights of others, yet, in reality, conflicts frequently arise between various religions. This may be due to what a specific religion holds concerning the nature of its own beliefs in relation to the beliefs of other religions. While each religious group has the right to profess that its religious beliefs are true and that other religious beliefs are either inadequate or contain erroneous tenets, no religious group has the right to persecute or seek to suppress other religious groups. Similar conflict may arise within a religion, in which case, the cause of the conflict does not reside in the religious belief as such, but in a misinterpretation of those beliefs that prompts misguided attacks on other religious groups.

Given the reality of such religious conflicts, the Council Fathers acknowledge that the government is responsible for keeping public order, not by taking sides, but by enacting just laws and guarding the equal rights of all.

What causes religious conflicts today? Do governments always adequately respond to such conflicts? What distinguishes “public order” (which limits religious freedom) from an ordinary policy preference of government (which does not)?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay FiveDay SixDay SevenDay EightDay Nine, Day Ten

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Seven: Public Witness

DAY 7: RIGHT TO PUBLIC WITNESS 

Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one’s own right and a violation of the rights of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious bodies should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Seven

While the Council Fathers insist that religious bodies must be free to teach and bear witness to their faith, they equally stress that this freedom must never be abused. It is not only governments that can deny their freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs, religions should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert. Rather, each person’s dignity and freedom must be maintained. The accepting of religious beliefs must be an act of freedom, otherwise it is done not because it is believed to be true but rather out of fear and force. The right to profess and proclaim one’s own faith cannot violate the same right of another.

That being said, religious bodies should be free to provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and why it would be of value for others to believe what they believe. They should also be free to address how their beliefs contribute to the good of society.

What contemporary examples are there of religious bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread their faith or hindering others from exercising their faith? What contributions does the Catholic Church make to society and culture?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay Five, Day Six

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Six: Self-Govern

DAY 6: SELF-GOVERN

The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious bodies are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

Provided the just requirements of public order are observed, religious bodies rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their lives in accordance with their religious principles.

Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Six

The Council once more addresses the public nature of religious belief. Religious communities have a right to act as a community of faith, for this is inherent within the social nature of human beings and religious belief itself. Provided that the just civil and religious rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must possess the freedom to live out publicly what they believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to instruct their members, and to develop institutions that further the religious life of their members. From within the Catholic tradition this would include religious institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups.

Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catholics are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders while also being loyal to their country and its leaders. Religious bodies should also be free to govern themselves financially.

Consider examples in contemporary life where governments—federal, state, or local—fail to respect the above rights? What is the relationship between the religious freedom of individuals and institutions?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay Four, Day Five

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Five: For the Good of Society

DAY FIVE: Religion is for the Good of Society

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government, therefore, ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the people and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to direct or inhibit acts that are religious. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Five

What the Council Fathers teach in this short paragraph is very important. They previously stated that governments should not deny religious liberty. Here they state what governments should positively do with regards to religion. Since people, through their religious beliefs, direct their lives toward God, governments are positively to take this into account. Not only should governments not hinder religious life, they should also “show it favor.” Since religious belief is a good within culture and society, governments should foster and aid the good that religion brings to the commonwealth. This does not mean that a government should favor one religion over another or that it should attempt to direct what religions should believe or do. Rather, governments are to create an environment in which religious life flourishes for the good of all. In providing such an environment where religious life prospers, governments contribute to the good of individuals as well as to the good of society as a whole.

How does religion contribute to the good of society? In what ways might it hinder the good of society? Do contemporary Western governments view religion in a positive or negative light? How can governments today foster or aid the good of religious belief?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay Three, Day Four

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Four: Conscience

DAY 3: CONSCIENCE

On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.

For, of its very nature, the exercise of religion consists before all else in those internal, voluntary, and free acts whereby man sets the course of life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.

However, the social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion; that he should participate with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society when the just requirements of public order do not so require. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Four

It is through their consciences that human beings perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they are to grow in their knowledge of and union with God. Again, the Council restates that, because of this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs. To forbid the just and proper public expressions of religious belief would be contrary to the order that God has established for human beings as social and religious beings.

The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.

In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private? Why should religion have a voice in the public square?

Let us pray:

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.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day Two, Day Three