Last week the Bishops of the United States issued an urgent call to all Catholics to pray, do penance, and make sacrifices for the cause of life, marriage, and religious liberty in this country. The actions they are calling us to take are not obligations, but these actions are needed urgently, so we are being asked to respond enthusiastically to the call.
One of the actions urged is to practice the personal penance of fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays. Essentially, the Bishops are asking us to treat every Friday of the New Year (until the end of the Year of Faith in Nov. 2013) as if it were a Good Friday. Does that seem like an extraordinary request? Yes, it does–and it's an indicator of the kind of day in which we now live. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.
Essentially, the Bishops are saying: The Church is facing a very serious situation in this nation. If we are to respond in the right way to that situation, we will need the graces that come from a massive chorus of prayer, a groundswell of penance, and extensive personal preparation so that Catholics will be aware of the dangers and develop the spiritual stamina and fortitude necessary to survive what lies ahead.
A slightly adapted version of the document issuing the call follows. Please take the time to read it, and then ask yourself: Do I have the faith and the courage to answer this call?
I trust your answer to that question will be a resounding YES. Be sure to stay alert to notices on the parish website, in the parish bulletin, in the IN FOCUS newsletter, and elsewhere about the dates and times for the monthly hour of Eucharistic Adoration that the Bishops have asked parishes to host.
Here's the call:
A Call to Prayer For Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Join the Movement!
WHAT: The U.S. bishops have approved a pastoral strategy to advance a Movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. It is essentially a call to prayer, penance, and sacrifice for the sake of renewing a culture of life, marriage, and religious liberty in our country.
WHY: The well-being of society requires that life, marriage, and religious liberty are promoted and protected. Serious threats to each of these goods, however, have raised unprecedented challenges to the Church and to the nation. Two immediate flashpoints are the following:
· The new U.S. Health and Human Services mandate requires almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to pay for employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs regardless of conscientious objections. This is a clear affront to America's first freedom, religious liberty, and to the inherent dignity of every human person.
· Current trends in both government and culture are moving toward redefining marriage as the union of any two persons, ignoring marriage’s fundamental meaning and purpose as the universal institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with the children born from their union. These challenges call for increased awareness and formation, as well as spiritual stamina and fortitude among the faithful, so that we may all be effective and joyful witnesses of faith, hope, and charity.
WHEN: In this Year of Faith, between the feasts of the Holy Family (12-30-12) and Christ the King (11-24-13).
WHO: All the Catholic faithful are urged to participate.
WHERE: Throughout the entire country; at your local parish, cathedral, school or home.
HOW: Consider these five ways to participate:
1. Attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month.
2. Pray a daily Rosary.
3. Offer these intentions in the Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses.
4. Fast and abstain from meat on all Fridays:
§ Offer the fasting and abstinence for the intention of the protection of life, marriage, and religious liberty.
§ The general practice of fasting allows a person to eat one full meal for the day. Two smaller meals may also be taken, which together should be less than the equivalent of one full meal. Abstinence means refraining from meat and meat products.
5. Participate in the second Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013):
§ Goal: A visible, vibrant reminder of the God-given nature of religious liberty, the right to bring our faith into the public square, and the rights of individuals and institutions to conduct their professional lives according to their religious convictions
§ Key issue: Potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage in June 2013
§ Key issue: The need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013, deadline for religious organizations to comply with the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate
§ Key issue: Religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services
Mark your calendars, make your Friday fasting plans, and keep that Rosary close at hand. Catholics in America are in for a year of spiritual warfare, and the Bishops have called us to prepare for battle.