The Fortnight for Freedom, which ends today, July 4, will hopefully be a great boon to Catholics across the country. Despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold Obamacare as a tax, hopefully the Fortnight, organized by the United States Bishops, has brought unity and resolve to American Catholics.
But I fear that in the end, it’ll accomplish next to nothing. Because our attention spans are short, and our wills are weak.
Did we pray for two weeks? Maybe we have, if we had the proper rest and hydration. Did we fill out an online form that sends a letter to our Congressman? Probably, as long we weren’t put on some annoying email list. Yes, we can do these things. At least for two weeks.
But what happens tomorrow? What happens on July 5?
Will we lift the standard higher or will we stash it in the attic and go back to the norm? I’d like to think that the Fortnight for Freedom has inspired and emboldened Catholics here and around the world; that it strengthened them for the long haul; that it initiated real change in Washington.
I’d like to think that, but let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Modernism? Sure. Relativism? Certainly. Secularism, atheism, communism, socialism? Check.
But more than any “–ism,” the reason we’re in this predicament is our indifference; our inability, or unwillingness, to stand up for the Church and for ourselves. The government does not simply wake up one day and tell everyone that they have to fund contraception. Little by little, we give them that power.
Over the years, we’ve compromised or looked the other way as government and society have chipped away at freedom and our faith. We can still worship. We can still, technically, believe what we want to believe, but we’re now thoroughly on the outside. We are second class citizens who can be coerced and trampled upon.
Catholics—real Catholics—are on the brink of being ushered out of the public square. And it didn’t happen with the HHS mandate, that’s merely one shove. It’s been happening for years in our capitals and in our classrooms. And while part of it is the raging sea of all those “-isms,” a large part is our malaise; our weakness.
We live in a post-Christian society. Getting to that point requires a powerful and malicious anti-Christian ideology. It requires a bastardization of philosophy, a corrosion of the family, a loss of reason, a disdain for the spiritual. But it also requires weak and ineffectual Christians.
The HHS Mandate is not a new threat. It’s merely the next order of business. It’s a result of years of temerity and compromise. Now, admirably, the United States bishops are fighting back. Many Catholic colleges and hospitals are fighting back, but will we fight back?
Recent history says, eh, probably not. Sure, we can say some prayers and listen to some homilies and sign some letters over these two weeks. But what happens on July 5?
This is no longer about “compromise” or bipartisan politics or keeping the peace. We’ve tried that and failed. We took the easy way and it’s only gotten worse. We’re losing. Will two weeks change any of that? Not if we can’t continue the effort and grow stronger for the next two weeks. And the next two weeks. And the next two weeks. And the . . . well, you get the picture.
The Fortnight for Freedom must be a launching pad, not merely a nice gesture. It must go beyond simply freedom. Freedom can be compromised, twisted. It must be about protecting and honoring Christ and His Church. It must be about restoring all things to Christ.
The bishops have cited the string of great martyrs—John Fisher, Thomas More, Saints Peter and Paul, and John the Baptist—whose feasts fall within the Fortnight as one of the reasons for choosing this time of prayer and action.
Tomorrow, July 5, is the feat of Saint Zoe of Rome. She was a member of Emperor Diocletian’s court, but she was also a passionate Christian, devoted to Saint Peter. Eventually, she was found out and Diocletian had her hung from a tree by her ankles and burned. On July 5, let’s pray for the intercession of Saint Zoe, that we may have the faith and the strength to put our Church and our God first.
July 6 is the feat of Blessed Thomas Alfield. In 1585 he was hanged by the British government for distributing pro-Catholic pamphlets. On July 6, let’s pray for the intercession of Blessed Thomas Alfield, that we may have the courage to defend Christ and His Church.
July 7 is the feat of Blessed Ralph Milner, an Englishman who aided British priests and Catholics during their oppression. He was hung, drawn, and quartered in 1591. On July 7, let’s pray for the intercession of Blessed Ralph Milner, that we may give our full support to Christ’s ministers here on earth, giving them aid as they lead us in the fight for our faith.
And it goes on and on. There is a martyr for every day of the year. The Roman canon is filled with men and women who laid down their lives for Christ. They defended Christ and His Church at all costs, not just for two weeks.
We shouldn’t hesitate to call upon them . . . and we shouldn’t be afraid to imitate them. We may not have to die, but we will have to suffer.
Two weeks of prayer and unity is great. And we should participate enthusiastically. Pray. Fast. Tell your neighbors. Write to your congressman. And prepare for the long and painful journey that lies ahead.
Or else, do nothing.
Because if we aren’t prepared to continue the fight—if we aren’t prepared to be martyrs—then the Fortnight for Freedom will be just another empty gesture.