The day after Independence Day finds me experiencing an eclectic mix of feelings: elation, hope and anxiety. Time with my family, Mass yesterday morning and the evening fireworks provided the traditional backdrop for our July 4th celebration, but there was a nagging feeling of dread lurking beneath the surface yesterday that I am struggling to shake. The most democratic and free society on earth elected a government in 2008 that is determined to destroy the religious freedoms of its citizens. These religious freedoms were part of the very foundation on which our great country was founded and under the deceptive guise of affordable healthcare and the HHS Mandate, much of what we Catholics and people of other faiths passionately believe in will be ignored or swept away. Also, let’s not be naïve and think the encroachment on our freedoms will stop here. This is intolerable and we simply cannot stand by and let it happen.
I am encouraged by the unified leadership of our Bishops in defiance of this tyranny. Their voices, particularly those of Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Lori, have defined the debate and mobilized our opposition. They have also attracted support from people of other faiths who recognize that Catholics are not alone in this struggle. As the U.S. Bishops have clearly said, this is not merely an argument over contraception. It is a fight for the fundamental right to worship as we please and follow the teachings of our respective faiths without government interference. Anything less than our full and determined opposition would be a sinful capitulation and betrayal of the Church as well as a slap in the face to the Founding Fathers who gave so much to create our nation.
The Fortnight for Freedom, initiated and led by our Bishops, was an overwhelming success. It galvanized support and focused our prayer efforts on seeking God’s help and blessing in resisting this evil. The Fortnight is now over. What are we prepared to do going forward? If you are reading this article, it is likely you are already on board with doing what is necessary to defeat this attack on our religious freedom. You have likely committed to pray faithfully, speak up to family and friends and exercise your right to vote this November. But, there is something missing from these efforts.
We need to move beyond only preaching to the choir.
I have observed that many Catholics, myself included, are doing a good job of trying to rally and encourage the faithful to oppose the attacks on our religious freedom. But, most of that effort is directed at people who already get it! Within the Catholic Church there are many who do not get it. We need to reach out, in a loving yet persuasive way, to enlist them to join this fight. We need to pray in earnest for them. Catholics make up a quarter of the U.S. population and collectively we can have an enormous impact on the election and future of our country if we stand up and authentically practice our faith. What about those around us at work, in our neighborhoods, schools and elsewhere who have no faith or practice a different faith? We have an enormous opportunity to reach out to them as well and enlist them in the most important battle for freedom we have experienced since the Revolutionary War. It is easy and comfortable to be courageous with people who already believe in this cause, but challenging to speak to those who might not be receptive. Yet, this is what is needed.
Five Practical Ways to Reach Beyond Our Comfort Zones
- Encourage the Faithful, Rally Everyone Else. Those who already get the importance of our resistance to this evil deserve our ongoing encouragement. But, let’s put more time into prayer and our energy into helping those who are indifferent, apathetic or in opposition to see the light.
- Pray Daily. You will typically see this action item in my articles for good reason. Nothing will come of our own efforts unless we enlist the help of our Lord in prayer! Pray a daily Rosary for religious freedom and seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Pray for courage, discernment and wisdom when engaging in conversation with those who are indifferent or oppose fighting for religious freedom.
- Are We Setting a Good Example? People are watching us. They may never say a word, but our actions and words are being observed very closely to see if we really practice what we say we believe. Are we reflecting joy and the light of Christ to others? Are we practicing personal courage? Are we doing this for personal glory or for Christ’s greater glory?
- Use the Right Arguments. Although Catholics have clear and indisputable reasons for opposing the HHS Mandate and the attacks on our religious freedom, other arguments will be necessary for those who don’t share our beliefs. One uniting argument that we can all rally around is the attacks on religious freedoms by this government represent an unprecedented attack on the liberty of all Americans… and it will not stop here unless this aggression is stopped. Even atheists should agree at some level that unchecked government power is a bad thing.
- Act Now for Future Generations. What will be our legacy for our children and grandchildren? Will we be known as the generation that lost our freedoms or the generation that stood firm in defense of those freedoms? An argument that transcends all religions is the one that says we can’t leave for the future what must be done today. I desire my sons to enjoy the same freedoms I do and I am willing to fight for them to have those freedoms.
My sincere hope is that this article will spur readers to the necessary action. If we seek only encouragement and support, it exists in countless Facebook posts and Tweets or the occasional forwarded email from a friend. If we want to make a real difference in this fight, let’s seek the help of Christ in prayer, be faithful to the teachings of the Church and get out of our comfort zones to rally everyone we encounter to step up in defense of freedoms that we often take for granted. There is no margin for error and nobody else will do our fighting for us. It is up to us and those we enlist in the cause.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was recently voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith will be released by Liguori Publications in November 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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