Fortnight for Freedom – Day 13: Living According to Conscience

As we approach the end of our Fortnight for Freedom and our reflections, let it not be the conclusion of our prayers for this very important value in our society: that we may continue to exercise our faith according to our conscience formed by our beliefs; not according to government mandate.

DAY 13: Living According to Conscience

In turn, where the principle of religious freedom is not only proclaimed in words or simply incorporated in law but also given sincere and practical application, there the Church succeeds in achieving a stable situation of right as well as of fact and the independence which is necessary for the fulfillment of her divine mission. This independence is precisely what the authorities of the Church claim in society.

At the same time, the Christian faithful, in common with all other men, possess the civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their conscience. Therefore, a harmony exists between the freedom of the Church and the religious freedom which is to be recognized as the right of all men and communities and sanctioned by constitutional law. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 13 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Thirteen

While insisting upon the religious freedom of the Church, the Council Fathers do not wish to give the impression that in some manner the Catholic Church is special when it comes to religious liberty. Thus, the Council first states above that where the principle of religious liberty is present, the Church is able to peaceably fulfill her divine mission. It is this amicable relationship between herself and civil authorities that the Church always wishes to pursue and ensure.

In the light of this, the Church also champions the religious and civil rights of all so that all people can live “their lives in accordance with their conscience.” In this way there is no conflict with what the Church demands for herself and what she demands for others—the freedom to follow one’s conscience in matters religious. This religious freedom for all is what the Council once more believes should be acknowledged and sanctioned within the constitutional law of countries.

In the United States, religious freedom is protected in the Constitution, as the Council desires. Are those constitutional protections enough? Are they growing stronger or weaker in our society today? What else, apart from the law, can strengthen or weaken religious liberty? What should Catholics do to defend and foster religious liberty in America today? What have Catholics done in the past when religious liberty was threatened?

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 Eleven, Day Twelve

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Nine: Government a Guardian of Freedom

DAY 9: Government as a Guardian of Religious Freedom

The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government. Therefore, government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means. Government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men’s faithfulness to God and to His holy will. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Nine

Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they consider a very important issue. It is not simply that governments should not deny or impede the religious freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency—religious or secular—within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. While few today would consider this, the next point that the Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments should actually “help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life.” While governments do not control religions, they should recognize their value and so promote their well-being. This allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise their religious rights and “fulfill their religious duties.” The government’s fostering the religious life of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also, the Council states, contributes to the good of society as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding and implementation of what contributes to justice and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in God, who desires the good of all.

How do governments protect and promote the religious life of their citizens? Do governments take this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?

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 Seven, Day Eight

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Eight: Parents as Primary Educators

DAY 8: Parents are Primary Educators of their Children

Since the family is a society in its own original right, it has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive.

Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education. The use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the rights of parents are violated if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs. The same is true if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 5 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Eight

The Council Fathers now address the religious freedom that is enjoyed by the family. Families have the right to live out their faith within the family. Moreover, parents have a natural right to religiously guide their families. They are the ones who have primary responsibility for the care and education of their children, and this is especially true of the religious education of their children. Thus, while parents are primarily responsible for the religious education, they are also free to choose the kind of religious education their children receive.

From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II stated that the family is a “domestic church,” that is, it is within the family that children are first taught the Gospel, are taught to pray and to keep the Commandments. Together the members of a family live out the Gospel life of love. In keeping with this, the Council states that parents must be free to choose their children’s schooling. The exercise of this freedom should not be the cause of undue financial burdens upon the family. Likewise, children should not be forced to attend instruction that is contrary to the religious belief of their families. Lastly, if there is only one form of education within a country, this does not mean that all religious instruction should be forbidden. Accommodation is to be made. What we see here is the Church ardently wanting to assure a broad and extensive scope for families to live out their faith as families, and this extends to the education of children.

Why is the above important for parents and their families? Are the above aspects of domestic religious freedom jeopardized today?

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 Six, Day Seven

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

Fortnight for Freedom: Reflections on Religious Liberty

Religious groups in the United States have been questioning the wisdom of the Health and Human Services Mandate, that narrowly defines a religious organization to the extent that most Catholic service organizations (and many other religious groups) would not qualify for exemption from the mandate to include contraceptive and abortion services as part of their healthcare plans for their workers.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made the case, the HHS Mandate is not a battle over healthcare (as it may seem on the service level), but is in truth, a redefining religious freedom in America; a redefinition which strips the human person of living according to their conscience.

For this reason, the US Bishops have proposed a Fortnight for Freedom, from June 21st to July 4th, reflecting on the right to religious liberty and our need to protect it for all peoples.

I will be posting the Bishops’ daily reflections on my blog, encouraging you to consider, what does it mean for us, as human beings, when we cannot act according to conscience? Where will it lead our society?

Let us Begin!

Day 1 – June 21st:

The Vatican Synod declares

that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publically, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day One

In the opening chapter of Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Council Fathers at Vatican II forthrightly declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” This right is founded upon the intrinsic dignity of the human person. From God’s revelation we know that the dignity of human beings resides in their being created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27). Like God we are intelligent beings with free will. Because of this we can know the truth and perform God-like actions, such as being loving, kind, forgiving, etc. Reason itself, in knowing what a human being is, confirms that we possess a dignity and worth that exceeds the rest of creation and that cannot be violated, but rather needs to be protected and fostered.

What human beings believe concerning God is of supreme importance. Religious belief lies at the very center of who we are in relation to what is most central and cherished in our lives. Therefore, the Council insists that the religious convictions of individuals or groups should never be coerced but must be held freely, protected by a civil constitutional right.

What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world? When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld “within due limits,” what would fall outside of “due limits”? What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?

Available in PDF.

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.

More on Fortnight for Freedom:

Catholic Bishops launch “Fortnight for Freedom” protest over HHS contraception mandate << Hotair

Who are the ‘Josès’ in Our Lives?

The story of the Cristiada – or Cristero War – was released in the United States under the film title, “For Greater Glory“. It tells of the rise to power of President Plutarco Elias Calles and how he becomes obsessed with the idea the Catholic Church in Mexico is a threat as he tries to enforce the anti-clerical articles of the constitution of Mexico* by writing a new and more stringent law, the Calles Law (1926), penalizing clerics for any infraction of the constitution. At first, there is little resistance, but as Churches are closed and priests are arrested and foreign priests deported, a resistance to the government silently begins to build. The film uses the backdrop of the rebellion to tell the story of a boy, José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913 – February 10, 1928) and how his faith and courage opens the heart of the agnostic rebel general Enrique Gorostieta to return to the Catholic faith. Some film reviews have called For Greater Glory “simplistic” story telling. But within its story, there are many lessons to be learned. I’d like to share just one.

On the way home from the movie, my Sisters and I were discussing various scenes in the movie, and how impressed we were with the story of young José and the deep courage he had shown. But where did he get it?

One of the opening scenes depicts an eleven year old boy, José, and his friend playing a joke on the parish priest, Father Christopher (Peter O’Toole). José is caught by his father and brought to the priest so that he can make up for his wrong doing. The light-hearted priest plays down the matter of the joke, and the boy is taken under Father Christopher’s wing. Over the days that follow, a friendship forms between the priest and the boy. One day, José asks Father Christopher why he doesn’t go into hiding like many of the other priests. He tells the boy how God will watch over him in His house. The boy continues to insist, only for the priest to conclude, “There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ.”  These words impress José very much. A few days later, José is up in the bell tower marveling at the view of hills, when he notices government horsemen riding toward his village. He shouts to warn the people and then goes to find Father Christopher to warn him. José urges Fr Christopher to hide, but he refuses. He gives his rosary to José and sends him off. José returns to the bell tower from where he watches as his priest friend is brought out of the church and shot by a firing squad. As the squad prepares, it seems that the priest and José are repeating the words from their places, aware of the others presence, “There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ.”

The movie goes on to show this young boy as a person of deep moral fiber, courageous and zealous for the things of God. Towards the end of his young life, he is tortured to reveal the base camp of the rebels, and in his refusal they cut the bottoms of his feet. He is then led through the village – his personal via crucis – his feet bleeding, to the spot prepared for his execution. With his parents standing by, he is given the chance to walk away, if only he will say Christ is dead. He continues to say “Viva Cristo Rey!” He is stabbed and topples over, tracing the sign of a cross in the ground with his blood shortly before he is shot to death.

Reflecting on his character, I mused:

  • “What if Father Christoper had gone into hiding?” 
  • “What if – in his moment of confrontation – the priest gave in to his prosecutors and denied his faith there in the square under the watchful eyes of young José?” 
  • “What if others chose not to get involved, risking their personal safety, for the sake of the war for religious freedom?”

The movie doesn’t tell us, but hints at the inspiration in Jose’s life in a simple parish priest who lived – and died – well for Christ.

This lesson is one we all must take to heart. We might not be called to die – as many did in the Cristero War did – for what we believe in. But we can ask ourselves, “Who are the Josés in our lives that might be carefully watching, wanting to do what is right but need someone to show them the way?”

Will the witness of our life and faith be such, that when José must choose, we have helped prepare him to be courageous to do what is right, no matter the cost?

Viva Cristo Rey!

___

Film Review: For Greater Glory, by Ed Morrissey

To know more about José and the other beatified martyrs of the Cristero War.
 
RELATED:
 
In the United States, now, there is a threat to religious freedom brewing, that would not even allow Mother Teresa and her works of charity to continue.
 
The Sacred Heart and Religious Freedom
 
For more information on religious freedom, please visit US Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
 
* The Mexican Constitution, ratified in 1917, was based on a previous version instituted by Benito Suarez in 1857.
 
This story was originally posted under the title “For Greater Glory: A Lesson” at:

The Sacred Heart and Religious Freedom

Traditionally in Catholic circles, the month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It seemed in my mind a calculated gesture to release the film For Greater Glory on June 1st. The film tells of the Cristero War of Mexico (1926-1929), and the Mexican people’s fight for religious freedom in an anti-clerical climate.

For Greater Glory struggles to explain the history of the conflict leading up to the Cristero War (how much of history can be told in a two-hour film?); how the loss of religious freedom was not done in one sweep with the ratification of the Calles Law of 1926. No, the Calles Law was only the last straw in a long, drawn-out oppression of the Church clerics written into the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The people’s rebellion began peacefully, with non-violent protests and boycotts, and only escalated as the Mexican government under President Calles began to persecute clerics and the faithful more openly. The people rose up to fight for their religious liberty under the banner of Christ the King (Viva Cristo Rey – Long Live Christ the King).

But much before the Cristero War began, the people have been sharpened like swords fashioned in the hot flames by the oppression they have experienced. Today, here in the United States, where we enjoy and exercise our freedom to practice our faith openly is being challenged under the current President and his administration. You might be thinking, “Oh, Sister Lisa Marie, what we are experiencing is nothing on the scale of what happened in Mexico.” And, thankfully, your statement would be true.

However.

If we keep an attitude that what happened in Mexico can never happen here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and continue to enjoy our freedoms and do nothing to preserve them, we will one day find our Catholic institutions – hospitals, schools and other charitable organizations – closing their doors. This will happen due to the regulations being put in place by means of the Health and Human Services mandate, which defines a religious institution in such narrow terms that Mother Teresa and her Sisters would not even be defined as a religious organization in their works of charity. And this, I fear, would only be the beginning.

Who will lose? First will be those who depend on these services. It is happening already with universities, in planning the new school year they are dropping their healthcare plans because of the mandate and the rising costs involved in meeting mandate criteria. Who will be next?

Those who benefit from Catholic Social Services – and other resources like it – will be the next hit. Catholic Social Services (go ahead and google it; they are found in almost all diocese in the United States, like this one in Sacramento, CA) employs not only Catholics, but people of other faiths too. Because of this, by definition of the HHS Healthcare Mandate, this large network of services for those in need would not qualify for religious exemption by the federal government (because they employ – and serve – people of other faiths). Strange isn’t it? The very quality that demonstrates her Christian principles works against the Church under the Obama administration.

The United States Catholic Bishops have been working to defend religious liberty and has sounded the warning to us all how the recent HHS Healthcare Mandate is a threat to not only our works of charity, but even more so to our ability to live out fully our faith. Our Bishops are proposing some ways in which we too might begin to defend our religious freedom:

  1. send your message to HHS and Congress telling them to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights;
  2. understand why conscience protection is so important;
  3. understand what the mandate includes;
  4. pray daily for the overturn of the HHS Healthcare Mandate; and
  5. participate in a Fortnight for Religious Freedom.

Other things to do:

  • Check with your diocese to see if it has other things planned. The Diocese of Sacramento will sponsor a Walk for Religious Freedom on the eve of Corpus Christi, a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Sacramento.
  • Pray for a positive outcome to the Fortnight for Religious Freedom activities taking place in dioceses across the country. Gerard Nadal is posting a Novena for the Fortnight on his blog for the next nine days to help in this preparation. Please consider praying it.
  • And please continue to pray for our Bishops.

We are called to walk with Christ. What better time to devote to this good work than in the month of June, dedicated to His Most Holy and Sacred Heart. In the picture above of the banner used during the Cristero War, it has a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the words, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Christ is our King, who from the Cross, paved our way to freedom from sin.

Let us pray that we will be able to continue to openly worship and serve Him.

Viva Cristo Rey!

A Lesson from For Greater Glory