85 years ago, our neighbors to the south were embroiled in a life and death struggle to maintain their freedom to worship as they saw fit. The Mexican Government systematically suspended and suppressed the rights of Catholics to gather for Mass, for priests and nuns to wear religious garb outside of a house of worship, and any foreign born cleric was expelled from the country. These stories are told eloquently in the new movie For Greater Glory which is in theaters now.
Our brothers and sisters to the south did not sit by quietly to allow this oppression to persist, however. Bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women, Catholic, Protestant and Atheist, even, bonded together in a wide range of efforts to preserve the rights of Mexican citizens to express their religious liberty. And while it was a long and difficult struggle, eventually the government had to withdraw, eventually the struggle for freedom was won; through the power of prayer and an attitude that they would not succumb to the forces arrayed against them.
My friends, we live in such a time and we must look to our fathers and mothers in the faith to see the example of their courage in the face of oppression, their resolve in the face of insurmountable odds, their determination when even family is turned against them. This is our time to stand and be counted. This is our time for greatness.
There are forces arrayed that want to redefine religious liberty into merely a freedom to worship as we please. This is not the right protected in our Constitution. This is not what so many of ancestors came to this country to find. We seek a liberty to be guided by our religious ideals to serve the poorest of the poor, to educate the young, to meet the needs of the sick and downtrodden, not because they are Catholic or co-religionists; but because WE ARE. Our faith demands that we serve, our mission is not solely ad intra, but as commanded by Our Lord, it is necessarily ad gentes, to the nations, to be a leaven in society and to be a force that works for The Good, not just for ourselves, but for ALL PEOPLE.
This is not a struggle solely for the bishops and the priests to undertake. While i ask you to please pray for our courage in leading you through the dark times ahead, you must also be active in this! I ask you to do three things:
1) fast and pray for this effort!
2) Stay informed on the topic, and don’t get caught in the trap that this is just about contraception, it is much deeper and broader than that.
3) Use social media to keep the conversation going. The main stream media is not covering this, so we must take it on ourselves to make sure this message gets out.
As we gather here today, we stand accompanied by the witnesses who have gone before us and who have given their lives for this most cherished of all American liberties. Let us follow the example of the martyrs of Mexico during the Christeros movement, of England during the Reformation, of Japan and the Far East during the missionary times and of the Early Church who first sowed the seeds of faith in Europe; that as they were willing to give all in testimony to their faith, and by doing so won the hearts of their enemies, that we might be willing to take up the call in our own day and age to be the leaven for society and to allow Christ to continue to speak through our words and actions.
May God bless our country and all who are gathered here.