The fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom will take place June 21st to July 4th — from the Vigil of the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More to Independence Day. During this time the Catholic Church in the United States calls on her members to pray for the enactment of just laws, the transformation of those opposed to belief in God and that those who oppose freedom and liberty, in our nation and throughout the world, may experience a change of heart.
The Fortnight for Freedom began in 2012 as a response to the Obama administration’s refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law regarded by the bishops as a safeguard of cultural order.
On Jan. 19, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the U.S. bishops that the Church “is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths, but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering.”
Benedict also warned the bishops “that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation — our relationship to God.”
An episode from my own family history illustrates the purpose of this event.
My father, DeForeest Benjamin Wright, was born in 1910 in Somerville, New Jersey. He was not a cradle Catholic, but remembered an anti-Catholic incident when he was about 12 years old. He was visiting his grandparents in the village of Scotts Corners, in upstate New York. His grandfather, the Rev. Benjamin Wright, held forth at the Baptist church each week.
Papa attended the Sunday celebration and heard his Grandpa Benjamin rep-rimand the members of his flock, haranguing them with reports of how some of them had acted shamefully toward the few Catholic families living in the tiny hamlet.
“As Catholics, they might be misguided, they might be misled, but they are neighbors and fellow citizens,” Grandpa Benjamin said. “Therefore, you must stop this! Not only is it anti-Christian to cherish such hatred — it is anti-American!”
So, as a Christian, the Rev. Benjamin Wright called Catholics “neighbors” to remind his Baptist congregation of the words of Jesus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). As a patriot he called the Catholics of Scotts Corner “fellow citizens,” making clear that they had the same birthright as members of his faith community and that they should all live in harmony in a nation that cherishes freedom.
Catholics have always been called to obey just laws, but how much has changed in less than a century? Common sense and politeness are victims of cultural egoism, so gross and debased as to invest pretenses as “rights,” such as same-sex marriage and allowing gender-challenged individuals to use the restroom of their choice in any public facility, including elementary and high schools.
The Catholic Church in America has not seen as great a challenge to her existence since the 1920s, when many municipal, county and even state governments passed legislation of a virulent anti-Catholic nature, which was enacted — quite ironically — by a majority of legislators drawn from the Ku Klux Klan.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded with the Fortnight for Freedom to assure Catholics that there is no real contradiction between upholding the just laws of the United States and the mission of the Catholic Church to bring the Gospel to all.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, proposed the name “Fort-night for Freedom” and the two-week schedule designed to celebrate the feast days of Catholics who died for the faith, including St. Thomas More, a distinguished lawyer and one-time chancellor of England, along with the holy bishop St. John Fisher. Both gave their lives rather than accept the tyrannous and schismatic actions of King Henry VIII.
This year the blessed relics of these two saints will tour the U.S. and Los Angeles will be the last stop. Archbishop José H. Gomez will welcome the relics to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels with a Mass on Friday, July 1, at 12:10 p.m., to be followed by a presentation by the curator from 12:50 p.m. to 2 p.m.
On Saturday, July 2, the relics will remain in a chapel at the cathedral for veneration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (213) 680-5200.
In addition to St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, other holy men and women are also being commended as “witnesses to freedom” during this year’s fortnight, men and women of faith who bore witness to authentic freedom in Christ:
Little Sisters of the Poor
The Coptic Martyrs (murdered by ISIS)
St. John the Baptist
Venerable Henriette Delille
Blessed Oscar Romero
The Martyrs of Compiègne
Father John Bapst, SJ
Saints Peter and Paul
Saints Felicity and Perpetua
Blessed Miguel Pro
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Edith Stei
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
Readers may learn more about the lives of these brave Christians, and obtain information about how you can celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom in your parish, via the the UCSSB website: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom.
All you holy men and women, members with us of the body of Christ — pray for us!
Sean M. Wright, a regular contributor to The Tidings, is a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Santa Clarita.