US bishops call for prayers for religious liberty

The Fortnight for Freedom is June 21-July 4, 2013. www.fortnight4freedom.org

By Catholic Spirit Staff

The second annual Fortnight for Freedom will take place from June 21 to July 4, and will consist of national and local efforts to educate Americans on challenges to religious liberty both at home and abroad.

Bishop Joe Vásquez will celebrate a Mass to kickoff the Fortnight on June 21 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Luke Parish in Temple.

In addition to the Mass, Bishop Vásquez has made these specific requests of our parishes:

A homily on religious freedom be given on either the weekend of June 22-23 or June 29-30.

Encourage all Catholics to pray the rosary each day during the two-week period.

Hold a Holy Hour for Life and Liberty. A sample of the Holy Hour is available at www.austindiocese.org/fortnightforfreedom.

Contribute to a Spiritual Bouquet for Religious Liberty. A spiritual bouquet is a collection of prayers and sacrifices offered for a particular person or cause. In this case, the diocese is collecting the prayers and sacrifices of all the faithful of the Diocese of Austin for the intention of religious liberty both here and abroad. The spiritual bouquet will be presented to Bishop Vásquez at the Mass on June 21. To submit prayers and sacrifices to be collected for the spiritual bouquet, visit www.austindiocese.org/fortnightforfreedom and scroll to the bottom of the page.

To conclude the Fortnight for Freedom on July 4, all church bells in the diocese will ring at noon.

Bishop Vásquez said prayer is the best weapon in the quest to uphold our religious liberty.

The Fortnight is "a special time when all Catholics are praying to be more conscious and aware of our religious freedom, and to exercise our freedom," he said.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, asks everyone to pray about and educate themselves on the topic of religious liberty.

"The need for prayer, education and action in defense of religious liberty has never been greater," explained Archbishop Lori.

"The Fortnight for Freedom exists to meet that need. This year’s Fortnight occurs just weeks before Aug. 1, when the administration’s mandate coercing us to violate our deeply held beliefs will be enforced against most religious nonprofits. During the Fortnight the Supreme Court’s decisions on the definition of marriage will likely be handed down as well. Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come."

The Fortnight for Freedom, which was celebrated for the first time last year, takes place from June 21 — the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More — to July 4, Independence Day. Last year, a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom took place across the country, including an Independence Celebration Walk & Picnic in Des Moines, Iowa; a motorcycle "Rosary Ride for Religious Freedom" in Colorado Springs, Colo.; nonpartisan voter registration drives after Masses in Atlanta parishes; a religious liberty conference in Covington, Ky.; an outdoor Faith and Freedom Mass in a park band shell in Savannah, Ga.

Nationally, an opening Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Lori on June 21 at 7 p.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. Cardinal Donald Wuerl will celebrate a closing Mass July 4 at noon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Both Masses will be televised nationwide on EWTN (check local listings for channel).

The diocesan Fortnight for Freedom site (www.austindiocese.org/fortnightforfreedom) also includes samples of prayer cards in English and Spanish, pamphlets on contraception, a novena for religious freedom and much more. For information about the Fortnight for Freedom in the Diocese of Austin, contact the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living at (512) 949-2486 or yvonne-saldana@austindiocese.org.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also has more information about the Fortnight for Freedom at www.fortnightforfreedom.org.

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