Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Paul the Apostle, Pray for U.S.

Did you hear? Tomorrow the Church in the U.S. begins a “Fortnight for Freedom.” The fourteen days between June 21 and July 4, a kind of living room retreat, are designed to help us think prayerfully about what faith-filled citizenship looks like in a free society such as ours. You would have thought that after all these years in which we, the Church, have lived, prayed, and ministered within our country it would be obvious. The HHS mandate that sparked a blaze in both Church and society this spring shattered that illusion for anyone who might not have been paying much attention before. It appears that maybe, just maybe, our government and society don’t understand, because many of us “believers,” who live in this society and elect these leaders don’t understand either. So the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) decided it was high time for a little homework.

On the USCCB’s Web page for the event you can find a number of helpful resources—also available en español: study helps, a prayer, activities for parents and teachers, videos, and announcements about opening and closing Masses which will be televised.

It’s interesting that the saints who are singled out are all martyrs. While the times we live in necessitate our willingness to pay the price for witnessing to Christ, it would be counter-productive for us to assume a victim stance. This “fortnight” is not about rattling sabers or nursing wounds. A glance at the other saints whose feasts and memorials we celebrate during those two weeks offer us a complementary set of heroes who come from various backgrounds and witnessed to the Gospel in various ways for the good of both Church and society (No women happen to be on the calendar. Sorry, ladies.):
•    Aloysius Gonzaga—Prince-to-be, Jesuit, nurse to the plague-stricken
•    Paulinas of Nola—husband and, later, pastor
•    Cyril of Alexandria—bishop, doctor of the Church, and feisty defender of the faith
•    Blessed Junipero Serra—intrepid and controversial Franciscan missionary, founder of the chain of California Missions
•    Thomas—Apostle of “doubting” fame, first missionary to India, martyr (The Web site missed this one.)

Photo credit: Sr. M. Emmanuel Alves, FSP
Below I’m offering you my abridged edition of the study helps, cast within the framework of our community’s novena to St. Paul, which also begins tomorrow. Our novena has a lot more chanting and  praying than what’s here. But if you’d like to pray with us, just follow this simple format:
1.    The opening prayer in honor of St. Paul (Pauline prayer)
2.    The reflection section for each day, which consists of an abridged quote from Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae, or DH), an abridged quote by the USCCB, and a prayer based on the Epistles of St. Paul
3.    The Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty (at the end of the blog post)

If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, another option would be to use the daily readings below after the Scripture reading in the LOH and make the Pauline prayer your responsory. You could add one or two of the petitions in the Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty to the Intercessions and conclude with the Pauline prayer.

Your intentions are our own!

                                    Novena in Honor of St. Paul
                                         During the Fortnight for Freedom

Opening prayer for each day:
Lord God,
you appointed Paul your apostle to preach the good news of salvation.
Fill the entire world with the faith he carried to so many peoples and nations.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Day One—June 21
“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” (DH 2).

“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.”

Prayer: O God, you made the world and everything in it. You give all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor you made all nations that inhabit the whole earth; you guide our history, so that we might search for you and perhaps reach for you and find you—though indeed you are not far from each one of us. In you we “live and move and have our being, for we too are [your] offspring.” We ask forgiveness for the times we have not made you the center of our lives and we renew our trust in Christ Jesus, whom you have given to us as our Resurrection and Life (cf. Acts 17:24-31).

Day Two—June 22

“[M]en cannot discharge these obligations [to seek and adhere to the truth] in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation, not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. Nor is the exercise of this right to be impeded, provided that the just requirements of public order are observed” (DH 2).

“[T]he truth [human beings] believe they have come to know binds them to that truth. Even if the ‘truth’ they believe is not actually true, yet, because they believe it is true, they are bound to follow their conscience. As long as what they believe does not infringe the just rights of others, they cannot be coerced into giving up or changing what they believe.”

Prayer: Lord, some of us judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all of us be fully convinced of the truth in our own minds. May we respect those who do not think exactly as we do, not sitting in judgment of either those who are scrupulously observant of even the smallest rules, or those whose spiritual vision is broader. Each of us is and will be, accountable to, you. May every knee bow to you and every tongue sing praise to you, our God (cf. Rom. 14:5ff.)

Day Three—June 23

“[T]he highest norm of human life is the divine law—eternal, objective, and universal whereby God orders, directs, and governs the entire universe and all the ways of human community, by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever increasingly the unchanging truth. Hence every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious, in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, with the use of all suitable means” (DH 3).

“However, human beings do not seek the truth as isolated individuals. The search for the truth is common to all, and so all share in the finding of truth and all share in the receiving of truth from others. Because the search for truth, the finding of truth, and the sharing of truth is a social exercise, human beings must not only be free to search for truth in the hope of finding it, they must also be free to communicate and discuss together the truth they believe they have found. It is through our free assent that we each personally lay hold of the truth.”

Prayer: Father of us all, we offer you our prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, for civic leaders, and for all who are in high positions: May we lead quiet and peaceable lives in all holiness and dignity and share with others the good news of our freedom in Christ. We know this is right and acceptable in your sight, since you are our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Tm. 2:1-4).

Day Four—June 24

“[T]he exercise of religion consists before all else in those internal, voluntary, and free acts whereby man sets the course of life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind” (DH 3).

“[N]o one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs.…
     “The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.”

Prayer: Father, you call us to freedom. In the spirit of true religion, we promise not to use our freedom for self-indulgence, but to serve one another out of love. You have summed up the law for us all in the commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Do not let us grow weary in doing what is right. By your grace, may we work for the good of all, especially for those in the family of faith (cf. Gal. 5:13f.; 6:9-10).

Day Five—June 25

“The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government, therefore, ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the people and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to direct or inhibit acts that are religious” (DH 3).

“[T]he Council Fathers….previously stated that governments should not deny religious liberty. Here they state what governments should positively do with regards to religion. Since people, through their religious beliefs, direct their lives toward God, governments are positively to take this into account. Not only should governments not hinder religious life, they should also “show it favor.” Since religious belief is a good within culture and society, governments should foster and aid the good that religion brings to the commonwealth.…[G]overnments are to create an environment in which religious life flourishes for the good of all.”

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, help us in our weakness. We know that all things work together for good of those who love God. So we place our trust in you as you intercede for us and all created reality within the heart of God. Set us and all that is ours free from our bondage to decay and obtain for us the freedom of the glory of God’s children (cf. Rom. 8:26ff, 21).

Day Six—June 26

“The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community….
    “Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties” (DH 4).

“Provided that the just civil and religious rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must possess the freedom to live out publicly what they believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to instruct their members, and to develop institutions that further the religious life of their members. From within the Catholic tradition this would include religious institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups. Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catholics are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders while also being loyal to their country and its leaders.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are head of your body, the Church! You are the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that primacy might be yours in everything. May the peace you won through the blood of your cross reconcile everything both on earth and in heaven (cf. Col. 1:19-20).

Day Seven—June 27

“Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one’s own right and a violation of the rights of others.
     “….Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense” (DH 4).

“It is not only governments that can deny their freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs, religions should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert. Rather, each person’s dignity and freedom must be maintained….
     “That being said, religious bodies should be free to provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and why it would be of value for others to believe what they believe. They should also be free to address how their beliefs contribute to the good of society.”

Prayer: Jesus Master, teach us, as you taught Paul, how to discern when to lean on our rights and when not to use them so as not to put an obstacle in the way of your Gospel. Proclaiming the Gospel gives us no grounds for boasting or holding others in poor esteem. Woe to us if we do not proclaim it! We offer you all we do for its sake; give us a share in its blessings.

Day Eight—June 28

“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” (DH 5).

“From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II stated that the family is a ‘domestic church’….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.”

Prayer: Lord, you are the Father from whom every family on earth takes its name. May they be worthy of their dignity. May they be strong in the strength of your power, able to stand against the wiles of the devil. With the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes for spreading the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith that quenches the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation, and the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, may they stand firm, praying for their own and for all the holy ones of God. (cf. Eph. 3:15; 6:10-18).

Day Nine—June 29

“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,… 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” (DH 6).

“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.”

Prayer: Lord, by your mercies, we offer you our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you; this is our spiritual worship. We pledge ourselves not to be conformed to this age, but by your grace to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may discern what is your will, what is good and pleasing and mature (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).

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.



  1. Please review our TheRationale.Com where we explore the latent response of religion and philosophy to the global economic arena. It is based on our lifetime study of Jacques Maritain. See and also note our webpage related to Pope Benedict's economic encyclical at or search under ray tapajna workers dignity.

  2. Thank you for this.

    God bless...


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