Bishop Burbidge at Fortnight for Freedom Mass: Be God’s loyal servants

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Hundreds of years ago, European immigrants came to the New World in search of a place they could practice their religion. Years later when the Founding Fathers crafted the United States’ foundational documents, protection for religious freedom was at the forefront, said Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during the opening Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom.

“Our forefathers correctly gave our nation’s citizens the right to practice their faith in accordance with their well-informed conscience and firm beliefs — a right that extended beyond the confines of a church building and into the public arena,” he said in his homily June 22 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. Yet, religious freedom still is attacked both in this country and abroad.

The Fortnight for Freedom, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a 14-day period of prayer and fasting ending on Independence Day. Tenets the Catholic Church has taught for centuries, such as the sacredness of all human life and marriage between a man and a woman, are being called discrimination, said the bishop. He encouraged all Catholics to pray fervently for elected officials and to participate in the political process.

“Make sure on a daily basis we never compromise our beliefs and convictions within our workplaces, communities and homes so that we truly are faithful witnesses and God’s loyal servants,” he said.

In the Middle East, thousands have given their lives for the faith. So, too, military men and women have died to defend our freedoms, including religious liberty, said Bishop Burbidge. St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, counselors of King Henry VIII of England, chose to die rather than compromise their beliefs. In honor of their sacrifice, the bishop and priests wore red vestments, a symbol of martyrdom.

After the Mass, men and women venerated a relic of St. Thomas More, the patron of politicians and the diocese. St. Thomas More’s example during the fortnight is a powerful witness, said Anthony Johnson, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Alexandria.

Tom Opfer, principal of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, came to the Mass to pray with the diocese. “Our country was built on religious freedom. With so much going on in today's world and wondering where our country is going next, I think it's important to pause and pray for those freedoms that sometimes we take for granted,” he said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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