Fortnight for Freedom ‘a gift’ in its focus on religious liberty

Following a Holy Hour for the Fortnight for Freedom at St. Ignatius, Hicksville, on July 3, the congregation processed to a Marian statue behind the church where they continued to pray for religious freedom.

Hicksville — The Fortnight for Freedom declared by the U.S. bishops “has been such a gift for us,” said Father Lachlan Cameron, associate pastor of St. Rose of Lima, Massapequa, because it presented an “opportunity to spend time chewing on and staying with the topic of religious freedom.” Father Cameron spoke to about 100 people who participated in a Holy Hour on July 3 at St. Ignatius Loyola Church here.     St. Ignatius was one of six “station Churches” designated by the diocese where opportunities for prayer and reflection were offered throughout the fortnight (two weeks) from June 21 to July 4. Many other parishes hosted their own events including lectures, films, discussions and, of course, prayer.

During the Holy Hour, Father Cameron used the term “electronic cocaine,” coined by a blogger to describe “how addictive technology is and how we crave information.”  

One of the effects of this addiction is that “people are unable to stay with one topic,” Father Cameron said. “In society at large, people no longer talk intelligently about topics. All they can give is sound bites.”

But the Fortnight for Freedom provided an opportunity to “stay on one topic, to really let the issue soak in,” he said. It is important to do so, because religious liberty is “at the cornerstone of who we are as a society.”

During this fortnight, “we’ve been made mindful that freedom of religion is more than just freedom of worship ... It is bigger than that. It’s not personal or private,” he said. Our faith is not defined only by our worship, but it must “spill out into service and to love,” he said.

Father Cameron said it was important for people to take two things away from the Fortnight. First is a “proper understanding of freedom, not just religious freedom, but all freedom,” he said.

“What is freedom? It’s not radical autonomy. It’s a gift, and like any gift it comes with the responsibility to use it well. It is always tied to the truth.”

The second thing he hopes people take away from the Fortnight is the knowledge that “tolerance isn’t enough.”

“Tolerance is a good civic virtue,” he said, but “we are Catholics and we’re called to something greater. Tolerance means ‘I’ll put up with you.’ That doesn’t sound very Catholic, does it? We’re called to love and love means we don’t turn our back on the truth. True love for another means we speak truth to each other.”

Following the holy hour, people processed from the church singing and carrying candles. They walked around the corner and regrouped at a Marian statue behind the church for concluding prayers, then enjoyed refreshments.

When asked why she chose to spend a beautiful summer evening at Church, one long-time St. Ignatius parishioner answered quickly. “I love my country and I love my Church.”

Another parishioner, Bill Cheslock, added that he is “concerned for our country.”

James Rail of St. Rose of Lima parish said he had come to “support our liberties and pray that we keep them, and not just for myself. I have four sons and ten grandchildren.”

Throughout the diocese during the Fortnight for Freedom, many Catholics expressed similar thoughts. At St. Dominic’s Church in Oyster Bay, Father Gerard Gordon didn’t expect the standing ovation he got after delivering a homily on religious liberty on the weekend of July 1.

“I was quite amazed,” he said. “I think I just tapped into something.” Many people spoke to him after Mass. “They said things along the line of ‘thank God’ you spoke up for us as Catholic Americans.”

Father Gordon said he used information provided by the diocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking of all the saints whose feasts were celebrated throughout the fortnight who “stood up for their faith, who remained faithful” and then drew parallels to what was going on in our society today.

“We have to look to these people as models for us,” he said. “We have a choice, so what do we do?”

American Catholics received encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI for their efforts during the Fortnight for Freedom and continuing in the future. The papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, delivered a message to be read at the Fortnight closing Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.,  on July 4 in which the pope expressed his hope “that the faithful will be strengthened in their religious and patriotic commitment to uphold that most cherished of America freedoms, freedom of religion.”