As we face, day in and out, the struggle for religious freedom, I recommend (re)reading Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s homily at opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception just last month.
First let me paint the picture. You could barely get in the door of the main floor of the basilica. I’ve never seen it so crowded. Young people were everywhere. They watched patiently as, at times, seemingly endless march of seminarians to the altar. Nevermind all the priests and bishops concelebrating.
The Mass was just two days after the Department of Human Services announced its final decision to “force individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience,” as Cardinal-Designate Timothy Dolan put it. “This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.” As the administration continued to roll over the Constitution, the gathering was inspiring, souls gathered for the best feeding – a Eucharistic one – before the civic protest against the grave evil that remains legal for a 39th year in the United States. They were not mocked, they stand as a witness and an inspiration and a challenge.
That January Sunday night, Cardinal DiNardo said:
Disturbing news came to us Friday from HHS and the Obama Administration: it fundamentally repeated the mandate that sterilization and contraception must be included in virtually all health plans. Never before in our US History has the Federal Government forced citizens to directly purchase what violates our beliefs. At issue here as our President of the Conference stated it this past Friday, is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty. More on that in a few moments!
We are the people of the Gospel of Life. We are the People of Life. We first live our lives as credible witnesses. We are engaged in the truth about Faith and Charity, virtuous living in chastity, a must for all and especially for young people who are pro-life. We must be sensitive less the desire for good things becomes a huge form of acquisition for things, for gadgets and for glamour. The beauty of the human person made in the image and likeness of God gives us a different “immediately” in terms of “getting.” Our face is turned to the unborn, the elderly and very ill, the disabled and those traumatized by our economic troubles. These persons are beautiful and these “poor ones” are the most important in the Kingdom of God.
Advocacy on behalf of human life is an essential dimension of the prolife cause and the prolife heart. I know that the prolife youth and young adults here and beyond will continue to be a source for renewed efforts and final victory in this truth and this reality. A “Year of Faith” begins this October for the whole Catholic Church throughout the world and will last till November of 2013. It will overlap with the sad 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade next year; may the new evangelization, which always begins with personal conversion, be a prime vehicle for re-invigorating the Gospel of Life here in the United States, for individuals, for the Church, and for the people of the United States. Please do not underestimate your presence and conscience here: Remember Jonah! Remember religious liberty and the current attacks against it!
Prayer leads to action and action leads us back to prayer and contemplation. We are about to approach the Lord’s Altar of Sacrifice and there place our own labor and life, our prayer and sorrows, our joys and anxieties there with the gifts of bread and wine. In the Eucharistic Prayer they are lifted up and the bread and wine are transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood, nourishment and food for all of us pilgrims on the way to the final glory of the Kingdom of God. At its beginning we hear the invitations: “Lift up your hearts” and “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” We immediately respond to each: “We lift them up to the Lord” and “It is right and just.” Like the apostles we are called and brought into intimacy with the Lord Jesus in his free and life giving act of reconciliation to the Father for us. Activated by the Holy Spirit we enter into sacrificial contemplation. Once nourished we are sent forth: to be sent is to be apostolic. Like the four first apostles we go immediately. We are not afraid. We are gone fishing for good. Immediately.
Pray. Fish. Immediately. Repeat.