A Prayer for Our Beloved Nation

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.

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5 Responses to “A Prayer for Our Beloved Nation”

  1. Bob Kelly says:

    Hi, Ed,
    You make the point that the ‘Fortnight for Religious Freedom’ “is not about partisan politics”, but on the front page of today’s Catholic New York, you are pictured about to give a speech on a podium that says “Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate”. This reenforces people’s fears that this is a partisan effort.


  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    Well, after all, it is his mandate. He stood up on a podium and announced it, his White House has repeatedly defended it — he owns it. Should a public official be immune from criticism by name, just because it’s an election year? Actually, by that logic our public officials could never be criticized or praised, since they’re always running for re-election.

    Having said that, though, I have to add that I do not like some of the partisan tone of the religious liberty advocates. I have already scandalized people by saying that I don’t care who the President is, as long as the objectionable elements of the law can be eliminated. I also strongly dislike using the term “Obamacare” — the name of the law is the “Affordable Care Act”, and however Orwellian that term may be, that’s what we should call it.

  3. Mary says:

    It IS Obamacare because it IS “Obama’s” and not at all “affordable” and nothing to do with “patient protection” (ask the unborn and soon the sick elderly about that). Obama blew 15 months of his presidency (in my opinion) and got exactly what he wanted. The mandate IS his. The attack on conscience IS his. The abortion policy IS his. The threat to our religious liberty IS his. Most importantly, the assault on the Catholic Church IS his.

    Since the Church has decided to fight the public fight on Constitutional grounds, anyone officially associated with the Church must be extremely careful about sounding partisan. However, that stance by the institutional Church, does not address a serious spiritual problem for Catholic laity in an election year. If this is not a “your party or your faith” moment, I don’t know what is.

    Catholics that I see and speak to on Sunday at Mass are woefully ignorant of the innate conflict between Catholic teaching and Obama’s policies. Those who do know seem not to hesitate about their lifelong politics and appear headed for the same election day kabuki dance without blinking an eye about the cataclysmic particulars of this administration. Many are genuinely uninformed, too busy with their daily lives, raising families, etc. or too poorly catechized to connect the dots between Church teaching and Obama’s policies — policies that are in mortal violation of what the Church teaches.

    Let the work of instructing the sheep begin with our pastors. Let it be spoken from the pulpit clearly, simply and without equivocation. Let it be solely about the non-negotiable issues of human life and marriage. Take the chance that some in the pews will not like it. Remind us of our duty as Catholics to be obedient to Mother Church even when it is hard. Remind us of who we are, our history, our founder and our salvation. This is partisan-talk but for souls. And at the risk of sounding partisan, God bless America.

  4. Ed Mechmann says:

    I understand that the President has to be held accountable for the law he signed and now champions (although ironically, he had little to do with its drafting). But the flaws in the law belong to the law, not to the character of the man who happens to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The law will still be problematic on January 21, 2013, regardless of who occupies that dwelling. That’s why I prefer to focus on the law, rather than the man who happened to sign it.

  5. Mary says:

    …..and what about the soul- work?