In solidarity with U.S. Catholics participating in prayers and public witness during the “Fortnight for Freedom” leading up to next week’s Independence Day, Archbishop José Gomez urged congregants last Sunday to rededicate themselves to the nation’s founding freedoms.“We are concerned that America is losing its will to promote and defend our most basic freedoms: the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience,” said Archbishop Gomez in his welcoming remarks during mid-morning Mass June 24 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He explained that the U.S. bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” prayer and action activities seek to enlighten leaders and promote among citizens “a real appreciation for what our nation’s founders knew: That our human rights come from God, not from government.” In his homily, he emphasized that it’s important to remember that “this ‘fortnight’ is not about politics. It’s about God and our relationship with God. It’s about our freedom to do what our faith in Jesus Christ requires.”Reflecting on the day’s Gospel telling how people rejoiced with St. Elizabeth upon the birth of her son, St. John the Baptist, the archbishop pointed out that the Scripture passage reveals an important truth about our faith and our relationship with God.“We find God, and we live our faith in God — not alone by ourselves — but always in the company of others,” said Archbishop Gomez. “That’s why religious liberty is much more than our personal freedom to pray and worship. Because our faith is social, we are called to live our faith in Jesus with others and for others.”He pointed out that Catholics are called by God, as John the Baptist was, to be a “light” to the nation, telling people of God’s mercy and salvation.“Our country needs to hear the good news about God again!” declared the archbishop. “America needs a new awakening to the spiritual and ethical values that are a part of our nation’s Christian heritage and founding. Our fellow citizens are waiting for a new evangelization and a new moral conviction. They are waiting for us to tell them about Jesus!”He urged Catholics, as they pray during the days leading up to Independence Day, to keep this in mind that “the greatest threat to our freedom of religion doesn’t come from our government or from forces in our secular society; the greatest threat we face comes from our own lack of faith and our own lack of courage. “Let’s commit ourselves again to telling Los Angeles and America that Jesus is alive and that he is calling us to a great destiny of love. And let’s keep working with our fellow citizens to create a society of mutual sharing, reconciliation, and love, rooted in the sanctity of the human person and the family.”“I think that Archbishop Gomez’ Mass today was very inspiring — coming here and hearing what the bishops said [about religious freedom] gives me a renewal in spirit,” said Ralph Fernan, an Incarnation parishioner from Glendale. Fernan had attended a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” L.A. rally in Pershing Square June 8, among many rallies organized by the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago and Michigan-based Citizens for a Pro-Life Society taking place that day in an estimated 145 cities nation-wide. “I thought the archbishop did a great job explaining the issue — that it’s about religious freedom and not particular issues as relates to women or insurance or medical health,” said Richard McConnell, a parishioner from Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hermosa Beach who came to the Cathedral Mass after seeing an announcement about “Fortnight for Freedom” in his parish bulletin. “These are times where we need to really stand up as Catholics and tell people what we believe in and what we stand for.”“It’s not about politics, it’s about pure religious freedom,” said Peter Gonzalez, who hails from Arlington, Virginia. “That’s what the forefathers wanted for this country: the right to pursue their happiness through their religious freedoms and not have the government interfere with it in any sense of the word. When the government starts infringing on people’s religions, it’s no different than what happened in 1776.”“I thought Archbishop Gomez’ remarks were most timely, very sobering and very inspirational,” said Mother Judith Zuniga, superior general of the Alhambra-based Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles attending the Mass along with 75 members of her Carmelite religious community. She noted that the “Fortnight for Freedom” Mass coincided with the 85th anniversary of the arrival in L.A. of the Carmelite congregation’s Foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa, who came from Mexico to seek refuge in Los Angeles from religious persecution. “It’s a very special day for us,” said Sister Zuniga.Gloria Rupio, a parishioner at San Buenaventura Mission, said the “Fortnight” Mass provided her with “great words” to take back and share in her Ventura community. “What I’m going to remember most is that God leads us, not the government,” said Rupio.Her traveling companion, Handmaid of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sister Mary Rose Chinn, director of religious education at San Buenaventura Mission, added: “The archbishop continues to remind us that conversion begins within ourselves first, and we need to grasp the truths of our faith in order to share that and participate in the new evangelization with others.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0629/fortnight/{/gallery}