Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

Advice from General Grant

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

There’s no way to sugar-coat it.  The results of the election were very bad for those of us who are committed to pro-life, marriage and religious liberty:

  • The re-election of the President, who made his 100% anti-life agenda a centerpiece of his campaign, and who will now have no incentive to back away from his HSS mandate that violates our religious liberty.
  • Defeats for authentic marriage in four separate state ballot initiatives — with marriage being redefined in Maryland, Maine and Washington, and the defense of marriage defeated in Minnesota.
  • The defeat of two ballot initiatives in Florida — one to deny public funding for abortion and one to repeal a nineteenth century anti-Catholic provision (a so-called Blaine Amendment) in their state constitution.
  • There were, on the other hand, some signs of encouragement:

  • The people defeated (narrowly) an initiative in Massachusetts that would have legalized physician assisted suicide.
  • There remains a pro-life majority in the House of Representatives.
  • But on the whole, it was a bad evening for the causes that we hold most dear.

    Many people are reacting to this event with dismay and discouragement.  Blame is being freely thrown around, and people are even talking about giving up and abandoning the “social issues” in the public square.

    At times like these, I’m reminded of Gen. Ulysses Grant, after the Battle of Spotsylvania in May 1864.  He had recently taken over command of the Union armies, and they had just endured two grueling, bloody battles in northern Virginia.  The battles did not produce the decisive victory that Grant was hoping for, and there was sure to be political pressure on him as a result.  Union casualties were high, and everyone expected him to retreat and regroup.

    Instead, Grant gave the order to advance, and penned his famous line, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer”.

    The battle of the Culture of Life against the Culture of Death is a long, twilight struggle that will go on for our entire lives.  It is fundamentally a spiritual battle (see Eph 6:12).  It is a contest for the hearts and souls of individuals, and thus our culture, and our laws.  It is not decided by one election, or one defeat, or even one victory.  There is no room for defeatism or despair.  We need to fight with confidence in the Holy Spirit, and determination to carry on, no matter what.

    Will you join me in taking General Grant’s advice?  Because I certainly propose to continue the fight.

    The Two Most Consequential Things You Can Do

    Friday, November 2nd, 2012

    No, this is not another apocalyptic post, talking about how monumental this upcoming election will be, and proclaiming it as the most monumental event in American or human history.

    Yes, the election is important.  Key issues will be decided by whom is elected to a wide variety of offices.

    But your voting decision, however important it may be, is nothing close to being the most consequential thing you can do this week.

    Here in the New York metropolitan area, we have been hit with a natural disaster that we have never experienced before.  The level of human suffering — that is to say, very real suffering by individual human persons — is heart-wrenching.  Even apart from the terrible loss of life and property, we see all around us elderly and sick people who are cold, hungry, scared, and lost.

    So here is the first thing that we can do:  help.

    Perhaps you have a neighbor who’s out of power, and you can offer a hot meal or a loaned flashlight.  Maybe you could go shopping for an elderly person who’s homebound.  The opportunities are endless, if we just look out for them.  The Lord wants us to think that way — just remember Matthew 25.

    Peggy and I are Red Cross volunteers.  We spent 48 hours this week working in a Red Cross shelter during the height of the hurricane, and we’ll be back in another one this weekend.  This isn’t complicated work — it’s providing a dry, warm refuge for people to get their lives and feelings back together, offering a hot cup of coffee or a snack, and letting little kids have a place to play.  There are lots of ways to help — if you can volunteer, please consider doing so (if not for this disaster then in anticipation of the next one), or perhaps a donation may be possible.  Catholic Charities and other agencies will also need help in the long run with recovery efforts.

    The second consequential thing that we can do:  pray.

    One of the hardest parts of recovering from a disaster is the sense of loss, depression, and hopelessness.  Please pray for the grace of strength among those who are struggling, and for those who are helping them.

    May I suggest that you consider a special prayer to Our Blessed Mother, who is always our hope in our difficulties?  Here’s my favorite one:

    We fly to thy patronage,
    O holy Mother of God;
    despise not our petitions in our necessities,
    but deliver us always from every danger,
    O glorious and blessed Virgin.

    You know that Our Lady is looking with compassion on those in need.  Perhaps the best thing I can do is leave you with an image, captured by a photographer who visited the rubble of Breezy Point, Queens.  This picture speaks volumes about Our Mother of Mercy, and how she is looking out for us in times of trouble:

    Remembering Nellie Gray

    Thursday, August 16th, 2012

    The pro-life movement lost one of our great figures the other day, with the death of Nellie Gray.  Most people have never heard of her, yet she was the driving force behind the annual March for Life. The march is the largest, longest-lasting public witness in the history of the United States (even if it is regularly ignored by the media).  Nellie helped found the March in 1974, she hosted the rally itself, and she proudly lead the way down Commonwealth Avenue, regardless of the weather or the political climate.  She was a force of nature in the pro-life movement, and the March is a seminal event for us — it’s a combination of rally, party, and requiem.

    I never met Nellie, but I have been to many Marches.  I was asked to contribute to a memorial for Nellie, and here was what I offered:

    Nellie Gray and the Gifts of Constancy and Renewal

    One of the many things to consider about the life and work of Nellie Gray is how she, and her beloved March for Life, represent what is so great about the pro-life movement, and what continues to confound its opponents.

    Anyone who has been to the March will quickly notice several things.  There are so many stalwarts there who have fought to defend life for years — just like Nellie Gray.  They were out there when the states started legalizing abortion, and when Roe v. Wade was decided.  They have shown the strength of the movement by their fidelity to the cause over many, many years.  Constancy — staying the course in a just cause.

    They also notice all the young people who are filled with passion for defending life — just as Nellie Gray was.  The March is a rally and party, remarkable for an event about such a lamentable reality.  This atmosphere, particularly the energy of the pro-life youth, lifts us up and encourages us that there is hope for the future.  Renewal — transforming new hearts and minds and culture.

    No movement in America is less fashionable and fancy than the pro-life cause.  Its opponents cannot understand its appeal and its longevity. The March for Life is hardly a glamorous event.  There are no movie stars, rock musicians, or A-list celebrities in sight, and there is little likelihood that it will become the next big fad.

    But Nellie understood.  The truth of the pro-life movement is very simple — every life has value.  This drove Nellie Gray — and millions like her — to be steadfast defenders of life, and it continually renews the cause.  Nellie Gray was an ordinary woman called by God to do exceptional work, with constancy and hope for renewal.  The March goes on.

    We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), and Nellie Gray was one of them.  Please pray for the repose of her soul and her eternal happiness with God, and for the consolation of her many friends and colleagues.

    A Question of Identity

    Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

    A recent news item has led me to reflect on a question that I think is crucial for all Catholics, indeed all Christians, at this time — the question of who we are.

    The “news” story (actually a commentary in the form of a news article) appeared in the Washington Post.  It describes the decision of the Arlington Diocese to require all their catechists to make a profession of faith, and the decision by a handful of catechists to resign rather than comply.

    The Profession of Faith is the same one prescribed by the Holy See for teachers in seminaries, pastors, and the heads of religious institutions, and is quite unremarkable.  It essentially asks if a person accepts the Apostles’ Creed and authoritative Church teaching –in other words, if a  person accepts what the Church has proposed for belief.

    To a person of common sense, the request by the Arlington Diocese is unexceptional:  if you are teaching the Catholic faith to children, we would like to make sure that you actually believe and accept the Catholic faith.  It’s like when a person assumes a public office — they have to swear to uphold the constitution and laws, and faithfully execute their office.  Or, think of it as a consumer protection pledge, like a “God Housekeeping Stamp of Approval”.

    To the author of the WaPo piece, and to the dissenting catechists, it is a shocking thing.  Pretty much anyone who has read religion articles in the press could write the story, since it hits all the media tropes — mean and authoritarian hidebound male bishops, courageous free-thinking women following their conscience, references to partisan politics and the health care law, and the Nazi’s even make a cameo appearance.   Naturally, it’s not as if the former catechists are Monophysites or anything too theological for the ordinary reporter to explain.   Their dissent  stems from all the usual trendy pelvic and gender issues, which the press loves to report about.  It’s pretty shoddy journalism.

    This story is striking to me because it involves deeper questions, which are not just being asked by the Arlington Diocese to their catechists, but which are in fact being asked of all of us:  What do I believe?  What does it mean for me to be a Catholic?

    For many people, both now and throughout history, being a Catholic has little to do with actual beliefs.  It is instead a cultural identity, or an ethnic characteristic, or a social custom.

    But that surely is not enough.  To be a Catholic means to hold certain beliefs in common with our brethren throughout the world, and throughout time.  It means to affirm the same faith that was preserved for us by the great saints, many of whom sacrificed their lives so that I might know that faith. It means to hand on to others, what was handed on to us.

    But on an even deeper level, it means to come to know the truth about somebody, about a person who loves me more than life itself, and who has given all of himself so that I may know and love him.  You can’t really love someone unless you know them, deeply and intimately.

    I know nothing of God — Father, Son, or Spirit — except what has been taught to me by the Church, and given to me by Her by Word, Sacrament, and Work.  I could never love God — the real God, not the flawed one I would rather create in my own image — if I had not received the truth about Him from the Church.

    That is why professions of faith are so significant to us as Catholics, and why we should be proud to affirm the truths of our faith, as taught to us by our Church, and to proclaim those truths to our world.

    The Sign

    Monday, June 25th, 2012

    Every year, for the past 21 years, our family has spent our summer vacation on a two-week mission trip with the PV Volunteers, to serve poor people in rural West Virginia.

    The poverty in Appalachia is crushing and depressing.  The coal and lumber industries employ many, but the economy otherwise is struggling.  Unemployment is high, especially among young people.  Housing conditions can be appalling — many people live in dwellings that would be condemned in New York.  There is a terrible drug problem, and all the health and social devastation that comes along with it.  The beautiful environment has suffered terribly from the pollution from mining, and from exploitive practices like strip mining and mountaintop removal.

    The PV Volunteers is not like a regular church group, who travel on mission together and then return home together.  After having been sponsored for many years by the Passionist Congregation (our original name was the “Passionist Volunteers”), we are now independent, but still Catholic and Christian in our identity.  They volunteers come from all over America — young and old, families and singles, from an amazing variety of backgrounds.  They travel great distances, and put their lives on hold for a couple of weeks, or even the whole summer, to serve God’s people in Wyoming County.

    The work is difficult.  There are repair jobs on the homes of people who can’t do the work for themselves — fixing leaky roofs, painting, repairing floors and walls damaged by floods, building ramps for the handicapped.  We run sports camps for kids who are isolated in the mountains with little to do in the summer.  Visiting the homebound elderly and mentally ill people is an essential part of our mission, spending time with them, and talking to them to relieve their loneliness and isolation.

    The living conditions are not easy.  We stay with up to 30 other volunteers in an elementary school, sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of classrooms, with a shared shower (not much hot water!) and bathrooms.  Chores and meals are in common.  There’s no privacy, little comfort, and lots of sore muscles.  The program runs on a shoestring, and is always short of funding.

    The work we do is certainly important — people with leaky roofs need to have it repaired, and they need help recovering from the frequent floods.

    But that’s not the point of the mission.  We don’t just work for the people here — we try to share their lives, to share ourselves with them.  And we strive to experience the divine in them, and in ourselves.  Every evening, no matter how tired or worn out we are, we gather for a review of the day, and a spiritual reflection on its meaning.

    In many ways the people in Appalachia are invisible — they’re in fly-over country, isolated in the hills, and easy to ignore.  But they are wonderful people, and God is very close to them.  Family and hospitality are central to their lives.  They have great faith in God, and know that even in their hardship, He loves them.  They trust Him, bear their burdens with great patience, and live with hope. They enrich and strengthen us.  So many of them have touched our lives, and it is a privilege to work for them.

    For Peggy and me, this trip is part of who we are.  It is understood in our family that we will spend our vacation in West Virginia every year.  Back in 1993, we left our home in New York — and I quit my job — to spend a year as PV’s in West Virginia with our children.  This experience has transformed our lives.  It has been a deeply formative experience for our children as well, who have seen first-hand how to serve and love those who are needy.

    We see the most powerful sign of God’s love in our fellow volunteers, especially in the other married couples who serve together.  These apostles understand that their sacrament is a sign of God’s self-giving love, and they offer that to the people we serve.  It is an awesome testimony of the power of divine love in our lives.

    Our modern age demands signs — something that will point out the meaning of life.  To those people who are still searching, we invite them — come to West Virginia.  Here, you will see the sign of faith in the people’s trust in God and reliance on him in their hardships.  You will see the sign of love in the people who come here to serve the poor and lonely, and who are loved in return.  And you will see the sign of hope, a firm confidence that God has a plan for all of us, which will always prevail.

    Happy God the Father Day

    Sunday, June 24th, 2012

    Father’s Day has now passed, and many people were kind enough to wish me a “Happy Father’s Day”.   I was very lucky, and had a good father — he was a good man, a solid Catholic, and he loved my mother very much.  He taught me by example, and who was, in many ways, a model of God the Father for me.

    Yet sometimes I think that most of what I’ve learned about God the Father, I learned from my children.  Or maybe it would be better to say that I learned about our perfect Father in Heaven by being a very imperfect father to my own children.

    Peggy and I have three children — two are now adults, and one is on the cusp of adulthood.  I’ve been a father for almost half my life now.  My children have taught me a lot.

    There are the lessons I learned from colic.  We were three for three with colicky babies.  If you have ever experienced colic, you know what it’s like.  Each one of my children, for several weeks when they were only a few months old, would cry incessantly every single evening, for no discernible reason, into the early hours of the morning.  You couldn’t get them to stop, you couldn’t ease their pain, nothing seemed to work, all you can do is walk up and down the hallway and hope that it ended soon.  When it became too frustrating to bear, I would hand them off to Peggy and take a break, knowing that in a little while, it would be my turn again.

    Your heart just breaks for them, they are so small and so distressed, and they can’t help themselves.  You want their lives to be perfect, but it doesn’t work out that way.

    As the children have gotten older, they have grown into their free will, and I’ve learned similar lessons from the decisions they’ve made — particularly the ones I disagree with.  I have done my best as a loving father to teach and model what’s right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy.  But they choose to do what they wish.  I can’t stop them, I can’t ease the pain they sometimes feel, all I can do is watch with sorrow as they make mistakes, and learn for themselves.  I want their lives to be perfect, but it doesn’t work out that way.

    I have also tried to stay in a close relationship with our kids, and I think it helps them to have a father in their daily lives, even as adults.  Yet at times there’s been physical or emotional distance between us — they move away to school, or we just don’t get along for a while.  This distance is painful to me, I wish it would end, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

    Of course, there have also been many, many times when I have been able to rejoice with my children.  They each have their own gifts, and I’ve learned to appreciate those differences, and the unique ways in which they are expressed.  I have to hold them each up to certain standards — particularly moral standards — but I also have to let them flourish in their own way.   And so often, it fills me with joy at being their father.

    Through all of these highs and lows, my children have taught me the meaning of unconditional love — because that is my perpetual challenge, to love them and stand with them no matter what.  Because of this, I think I have gained a small shadow of insight into God the Father, and how He feels about me.

    Like every broken person in the world, I have been hurt and wounded, and I have damaged my relationship with my heavenly Father.  I’ve gone my own way, without much regard for His. I have been too proud, or too blind, to ask Him for forgiveness.  There has been distance between us, not because He has ever rejected me, but because I have kept away.

    But I also have felt my Father’s unconditional love for me.  I know that he rejoices when I do his will, and grieves when I do not.  I know that he celebrates when I am happy, and mourns when I am sad.  He is my Father, no matter what, and He will always stand with me.  I know that he wants my life to be perfect, and that He will help me when it’s not.

    My children have taught me all of this.  So, when my kids wish me a “Happy Father’s Day”, I can be grateful to them for looking past my imperfections, and I can wish the same to my heavenly Father in His perfection.

    A Prayer for Our Beloved Nation

    Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

    Just over four years ago, Peggy and I had the privilege of attending the beautiful Mass offered by Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium.  Like many in the Stadium, we were caught up in the power of the event — the leader of the Church around the world had come to our home town and was celebrating the Eucharist for us.  It was the pinnacle of the Holy Father’s visit to our nation, and a wonderful moment for us as Catholics.

    Throughout his visit to America, the Holy Father spoke in such positive terms about our nation’s legacy of freedom.  At the time, it would have been easy for most Americans to overlook the significance of remarks like these:

    In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Today’s celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

    How much things have changed, and how prophetic the Holy Father has proven to be.

    Just a few years after that papal visit, we are faced with a panoply of threats to our fundamental religious liberty, which few could have foreseen — the legal re-definition of marriage; the mandates for insurance coverage of sterilization, abortion drugs, and contraceptives; forcing people to pay for insurance coverage of direct abortion; the refusal of our government to recognize the conscience rights of religious institutions.  The path forward is daunting, and we are likely to see more and more restrictions on religious participation in public life.

    In these times, it is all the more important to go back to basics, to recapture those essential ideals of America about which the Holy Father spoke.  And to turn to God in prayer for our nation.

    This is what is motivating the United States Bishops in their call for a prayerful “Fortnight for Freedom”, from June 21 through July 4.  They are asking us to join in “a great hymn of prayer for our country”, with special liturgical events like Holy Hours and litanies, and public witness like the ringing of church bells and processions.  It is an event of public devotion and worship — directed to God, on behalf of our beloved nation.

    Of course, the Fortnight for Freedom risks being misunderstood by our modern culture, with its obsession with electoral politics.  The Fortnight is not about partisan politics, it has nothing to do with elections, and it is not concerned with who holds public office.  It is a call for all Americans — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — to recapture our sense of priorities.  The goal is to reawaken our sense of dependence on God for the well-being of our nation, and our commitment to transforming all of society in the light of the Gospel.

    I believe that, in his homily at Yankee Stadium, Pope Benedict foresaw the need for the Fortnight for Freedom, and anticipated its message and its importance.  He spoke of our daily prayer for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and dedicating ourselves to its growth throughout our society.  Speaking of the significance of this prayer, he added:

    It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness… It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

    We are proud to be Americans, and we are proud to be Catholics.  We will gladly join together with our brothers and sisters across our nation during the Fortnight for Freedom.  We pray that our beloved nation, under God, will respect our fundamental human rights, particularly our right to religious liberty, and that this freedom will always be held sacred and secure.

    Real People, Real Evangelists

    Monday, June 4th, 2012

    One of the central components of the New Evangelization is the willingness of ordinary Christians to give witness to the joy and consolation that they have experienced in the life of faith.  The most effective evangelization technique is to invite others into the same love affair that we have experienced with Jesus.

    To that end, I would like to share with you a wonderful video that’s part of the “Any Given Sunday” campaign of the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston (West Virginia):

    (Hat tip to the Deacon’s Bench)

    The Disgrace of Georgetown

    Thursday, May 17th, 2012

    There’s a very fine Jesuit priest who is a professor at Georgetown University, Fr. James Schall. In a recent column, he said this: “Tell me who you honor and I will tell you what you are.”

    The reason for the question is the appalling decision by Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute to have HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as the speaker at their commencement. The president of Georgetown has stated that this platform is being given to the Secretary because of her “long and distinguished record of public service”.

    Yes, you read that right.  An allegedly Catholic university, giving a platform of honor to the current Administration’s point person to advance its anti-life agenda.

    Let’s review some of the highlights of Secretary Sebelius’ “long and distinguished record”, for those at Georgetown who don’t have access to the Internet:

  • She has spearheaded the recent attacks on human life and religious liberty by promulgating the infamous HHS contraceptive and abortion mandates.
  • She notoriously declared at a pro-abortion rally that “we are in a war” to defend the right to kill children in the womb.
  • She has associated with, and embraced the support of, the infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller — she even hosted an event at her governor’s mansion in honor of him and posed smiling for pictures with him.
  • As Governor of Kansas, she consistently opposed pro-life legislation, and has repeatedly vetoed bills like a ban on partial birth abortion.
  • Her record was so bad in Kansas that her own bishop, after trying privately to convert her, had to publicly admonish her not to present herself for Communion until she publicly repudiates her pro-abortion positions.
  • Georgetown loves to boast about how it is a university “in the Jesuit tradition”. At the heart of the Jesuit charism is the Spiritual Exercises of their founder, St. Ignatius Loyola. During the second week of the Exercises, those who are on the retreat receive a meditation on the Two Standards. This is a powerful expression of the very meaning of Christian discipleship.

    The meditation asks bluntly — whose standard or flag will we follow, Christ’s or Satan’s?

    Satan’s standard, of course, is the one that the world finds most attractive, because it superficially appeals to our fallen human nature. It offers us the desire for worldly possessions, power, honor, and a false view of freedom that is a disguise for immorality. In the end, though, it leads only to destruction.

    Christ’s standard, on the other hand, is the one that the world finds unattractive, because it appeals to values that are exemplified by Our Lord himself, whom the world rejected. It offers us humility, poverty, sacrifice, and authentic freedom that involves willing adherence to God’s will. And in the end it leads to glory.

    So here’s the question for the Georgetown administration — which standard have you chosen? As Fr. Schall said, “Tell me who you honor and I will tell you what you are.”

    The Power of the Powerless

    Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

    In my last post, I outlined the need for resistance against unjust laws that threaten the freedoms of religious and pro-life people.  In this post, I’m going to present a “menu of resistance” — essentially a list of things that people can do to give actual life to their conscientious objections to injustices like the contraception and abortion mandates, attempts to force the recognition of same-sex “marriages”, restrictions on free speech, and the like.

    Before presenting these suggestions, I would like to stress several important points.

    First, this is not an official statement or position of the Archdiocese of New York — it is my opinion, and mine alone. Take these ideas for what they’re worth, but they are not attributable to the Archdiocese in any way.

    Second, I don’t want anyone to be under any illusion here — some of these suggestions may lead people into legal difficulties with the authorities.  Governments generally are very intolerant of dissent and civil disobedience.  So people should assess their level of risk, and prepare themselves to accept the consequences of their actions.

    Third, and most important, the watchword of resistance to injustice is always that we speak the truth with love.  That is non-negotiable.  Our aim is the conversion of hearts, not the exertion of power.

    With that having been said, here are some suggestions about how people can

  • Learn about your rights.  Most states have laws that grant protection to religious belief.  For example, here in New York, our Human Rights Law contains fairly broad protection against discrimination on the basis of religious belief, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for believers.  Courts in New York have already held that opposition to abortion is protected under these laws.
  • Take advantage of the law.  Many unjust laws provide for exemptions and appeals.  For instance, private employers can file for an exemptions from the HHS abortion/contraception mandate.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if HHS received a letter from every parish, every school, every hospital, every nursing home, every Catholic employer in the United States — thousands of requests for exemptions that they would have to process?  Do you think that might let them understand how significant an intrusion their mandate is?
  • Use the government’s own legal process.  Appeal any denial of a request for an exemption.  File complaints with civil rights offices of government agencies when they try to force you to cooperate with unjust laws.  Explain to them that complying with the law would violate your Constitutional rights.  For example, you can file a complaint with the Civil Rights Office of HHS here.  All states (like New York) and most localities also have human rights commissions — file complaints with them as well.
  • Be persistent.  Protest letters to government agencies are likely to be ignored at first, or summarily denied without any reason.  If that happens, appeal to higher authorities at the agency, and go up the ladder, all the way to the person in charge.
  • Ask your elected officials for help.  Send copies of your complaints and appeals to your representatives in Congress or the State Legislature.  Ask them to intervene with the agency on your behalf.  Insist that they send you a response.  Go to their district office and ask for help in person.
  • Always tell the truth. Never tell a lie to a government official — if it’s a federal official, that’s a crime.  So, for example, if you are called upon to fill out a form, and it asks for an answer that you cannot honestly give, leave it blank and write a cover letter explaining your objection.
  • Don’t pay for injustice.  Refuse to pay fees for insurance coverage for abortion and contraception.  Write to your health insurance company and ask for a rebate for any funds spent on abortion.  When they ignore you, write to the board of directors and the president of the company.  If they insist that you pay, send them the fee in pennies, write a polite protest letter.
  • Write to your elected officials.  Make clear to them that you want them to pass just laws, and repeal unjust laws.  Do it over, and over, and over.  Join email networks like the New York State Catholic Conference Advocacy Network and the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment and send easy emails to your representatives.
  • Write to candidates.  Explain to them that you will never vote for them unless they oppose unjust laws.  If you can’t think of anything else to say, tell them that you agree with Cardinal Egan:  “Anyone who dares to defend that [an unborn child] may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses’ to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name”.
  • Don’t vote for them.  Speaking for myself, I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. If you don’t respect human life, don’t see the need to preserve marriage as one man and one woman, and won’t defend religious liberty, I won’t vote for you.  I refuse to choose “the lesser of two evils” — because then, all I’ll ever get is evil.
  • Participate in public witness.  It is vitally important that we be seen by the general public as sane, reasonable, committed people.  Participate in prayerful and peaceful vigils like those run by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.  Join positive, well-informed rallies like the ones sponsored by “Stand Up for Religious Freedom”.  Always obey the law.  Remember — numbers don’t matter — witness does.
  • Support lawsuits against unjust laws.  There are many great organizations that are fighting in court to defend religious liberty, like the Alliance Defense Fund and the Becket Fund.  If you have some extra, send them some cash.  Join their lawsuits — wouldn’t it be great if a million Catholics joined a gigantic class action suit against the contraceptive and abortion mandates?
  • Refuse to speak the lie. Always tell the truth — abortion is not health care, contraception is bad for women, men and society, marriage is only a union of one man and one woman, and religious belief is not hatred or bigotry.  Remember, your silence may be taken as agreement or surrender, so make sure that you speak out.
  • Don’t cooperate in the lie.  Don’t do anything that will recognize the lie.  For example, don’t give your employees information about contraception or abortion coverage, erase it from your company’s plan books, refuse to recognize any same-sex marriages.  Remember that human rights laws protect religious liberty.  If you think your rights are in danger, use the magic words — “I’m going to consult with a lawyer”.  Then call a group that defends liberty, like the Alliance Defense Fund.
  • Stick together. One of the things that people find demoralizing is the sense that they’re all alone, and that nobody agrees with them.  But we are not alone — we’re a gigantic movement.  So, write letters to the editor of your newspaper, post comments on friendly blogs (and ignore the flames that come back in response), put the truth up on your Facebook page (even if people will “unfriend” you), pass around supportive emails, join a pro-life organization like the Knights of Columbus or your local pro-life committee.
  • Pray, pray, pray.  For everyone involved — those being oppressed as well as their oppressors.  This is not going to be easy.  But remember what St. Paul said:  “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
  • Resistance reminds people of a sense of their power, even when they appear to the whole world to be powerless.  The truth, expressed with love, is an enormously influential force.  Worlds and lives can change, when people have the courage to testify to the truth.  We can lift each other up by our steadfastness.

    Even if we have no idea how our actions will play out, each individual moral act will have a ripple effect, the ends of which we cannot foresee.  Even if we never see the end result, we can always be satisfied that we have been faithful to our beliefs.

    And we can never underestimate the power of the powerless.  Especially when God is with us.