The Freedom to Serve
By Tom Grenchik
June 6, 2014
How are you celebrating the Fourth of July? The Bishops of the United States have called all the faithful to celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom from June 21 to July 4, 2014. This year’s theme, Freedom to Serve, will celebrate and focus on the freedom of both Catholic individuals and institutions to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with the Church’s teaching.
This two-week period is a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, including St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
In the last two years, approximately 80% of Catholic dioceses participated in the Fortnight for Freedom. This has included a great variety of events promoting religious freedom across the country, including interfaith prayer services, special Masses and Holy Hours, rallies, televised town hall meetings, conferences, and other public events where speakers highlighted the various threats to religious liberty, especially the HHS mandate and efforts to redefine marriage in law.
This year, the Fortnight for Freedom is significant for several reasons:
- First, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in late June on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases. In these cases, two families, one evangelical and one Mennonite, are challenging the HHS mandate that would require them to include life-terminating drugs and devices in their closely-held companies’ health insurance plans.
- Second, we are seeing increasing threats to the religious freedom of those who accept and believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. In the last few months, several courts have struck down state marriage amendments, and appeals of these decisions are ongoing.
- Third, the success of this Fortnight is vital to establishing and maintaining a new movement for religious freedom, in response to the growing range of religious freedom issues in so many areas of law, such as immigration, adoption, and disaster relief, both here and abroad.
Archbishop William Lori will open the Fortnight with a special Mass on Saturday, June 21 at 5:30 p.m. ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, MD. Cardinal Donald Wuerl will close the Fortnight with a special Mass on Friday, July 4 at noon ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville will be the homilist at the July 4 Mass. Both Masses will be televised nationwide on EWTN.
Through prayer, education, and public action during the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve, we will promote the importance of preserving the essential right of religious freedom, both now and for future, for Catholics and for those of all faiths. Please join with thousands of the faithful who will answer the bishops’ call to prayer by visiting Fortnight4Freedom.org and to find out how you and your parish can participate in the Fortnight.
Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife
to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.
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