Religious Freedom Day 2018

Even in the face of much criticism, scrutiny, and out-right destruction among the left-leaning individuals in this country, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, announced yesterday, January 16, to be Religious Freedom Day. Click on the link to read the statement from the White House.

Although his predecessor (as well as his predecessors) also declared each January 16 Religious Freedom Day, it’s this writer’s personal opinion that this year and the years to follow will have more impact for those actually facing religious persecution in this country. For eight years, we had been subjected to an individual that didn’t care about religion or the religious beliefs of any of his citizens. It was lip service at best. Today, I feel confident that our religious freedoms will be upheld with our current President, his Administration, and that the Courts will rule with the laws already on the books in mind.

As a Catholic, a writer and a parish evangelist, I hold religious freedom fundamental to our very existence. If you include this article, I have written on religious freedom 12 different times on here. I see it as important to not only US citizens, but all people who desire to openly express their religious beliefs and faith.

If you aren’t aware of it, religious freedom is one of the major themes of the Second Vatican Council that was held from 1962-1965. Read the document, Dignitatis Humanae. So many of the Bishops in Europe, most notably, the future Pope, John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, were forced into how the government wanted him and rest of Poland, matter of fact the entire Iron Curtain, to profess their Catholic (and other Christians) faith.

This is also why so much of John Paul II’s writing’s during his papacy focused on the dignity of the human person. He saw first-hand how the human spirit was destroyed when religious freedom was not permitted to be expressed freely and openly. It seems that Pope John Paul II could see the writing on the wall here in the USA, when on October 8, 1995, he said the following in Baltimore, Maryland –

“The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism in America’s official faith. And it is vitally necessary, for the very survival of the American experience, to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom and the convictions which sustain it.”

What does the Catholic Church profess regarding religious freedom? Well, if you have the time, read the aforementioned Vatican II document. It’s a good read. If you don’t time for that, I would suggest reading what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on religious freedom. You can find those teachings in paragraphs 2106-2109. I would also suggest checking out Tim Staples’ article on Religious Liberty on the Catholic Answers webpage.

Of course, I can’t end an article like this one without asking you all to pray for our country, or for the country you live in currently, pray for religious freedoms, and pray for those who oppose religious freedom or those who see it as a form of intolerance. Pray for the conversion of all people who are not open to Jesus Christ. Yes, I know it be difficult to pray for people like this, but it needs to be done. Trust me, I remind myself of this every day.

Pope St. John Paul II on Religious Freedom in America

As this new dawn rises on America, it’s a day of sadness. It seems 50% and the electoral college of the United States of America (united is now a loose term) have decided to re-elect a person that opposes religious freedom in this country. Actually, this individual is very hostile toward Christianity, but specifically Catholicism. For the 50% of Catholics (another term used loosely) who chose to vote for this person, what are you thinking? Do you have any idea what you have just done? You reap what you sow! I hope that at some point you will come to realize what your decisions could do to this country.

As Catholics, who are faithful to the teachings of the Church (not like the 50%), we must turn our gaze to the late great pontiff, Pope St. John Paul II. He too lived through the Nazi Empire as well as the Socialists who ruled with Communism in Poland and most of Eastern Europe. Pope St. John Paul was a fundamental figure in the writing of Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom from the Second Vatican Council – because he was living through it!

As faithful practicing Catholics who adhere to the teachings of the Church (not like those numbers above), we must storm heaven with prayers and ask the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II, St. Thomas More (and the fight for religious freedom), St. John Fisher, the Mexican Martyrs, and all the other saints who lived under governments that oppressed religious freedom.

On October 8, 1995, in Baltimore, Maryland, no less, John Paul II said,

“The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism in America’s official faith. And it is vitally necessary, for the very survival of the American experience, to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom and the convictions which sustain it.”

It would seem that John Paul II could see the “writing on the wall” in 1995 as his statement has a prophetic tone to it. So what can we do?  Storm heaven with our prayers and know that God is still God no matter who the person leading a country is and remember the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Pope St. John Paul II – “BE NOT AFRAID!”

Updated: January 17, 2018.

Standing Up For Religious Freedom

This past Friday I joined a few hundred individuals at the steps of the Texas State Capitol to show my outrage against the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate. When this was first announced a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it since I teach during the time the rally was to be held. However, we had a different schedule on Friday since we had Eucharistic Adoration with the entire student body. I was able to drive down from North Austin to Downtown Austin for the rally and I was so happy to be amongst the men and women standing in defiance of tyranny. While I was at the steps of the capitol, I ran into many people I knew and even ran into Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., one of the founders of the Dominican Sisters Mary Mother of the Eucharist. She was in Austin for a fundraiser that the Sisters had the day before.

As I returned back to the high school, I looked at Facebook and Twitter on my cell phone and so many people were posting pictures from the other rallies that had occurred on Friday as well. I believe there were over 100 cities in the United States that participated in the “Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally.” As par for the course, there was barely any media coverage at the Austin rally. I only saw one media outlet present. It seems that the rallies did bring out the news media outlets around the country. It’s shocking to read so many news stories because the liberal leaning media sources want no part of the words that are spoken at these events usually. They are in bed with the Obama Administration and really should be considered “state-run” media sources like we see in other countries that oppress liberty and specifically, religious freedom.

Even though the Austin rally was relatively small compared to some of the numbers I read about it in other places around the country, the overall support from people driving by in their cars was very high. Many people honked their horns in affirmation in what we were doing on Friday.  As one who has prayed in front of abortion facilities before, you can tell the difference between a car horn of affirmation or one of negativity. As so many people honked in affirmation, I said to myself, of course they are honking positively because nobody in their right mind wants their religious liberties taken away from them. This country was rooted in the very fact that we have such liberties granted to us. The First Amendment is FIRST for a reason!

So what should we do?

First, inform yourselves if you haven’t already and visit the website – StandUpForReligousFreedom.com

Next, call or write your congressmen and U.S. Senators and ask them to support legislation that will overturn the HHS Mandate. Here is my post – Dear Senator…I Want My Religious Freedom.

Third, only vote for candidates that seek to protect human life and religious liberties.

Fourth, as Catholics, read the document – Dignitatis HumanaeDeclaration on Religious Liberty from the Vatican II Council (December 7, 1965).

Lastly, PRAY! Pray that those who are in power see the errors of their ways.

Dignitatis Humanae was so important during the Vatican II Council because at that time the Soviet Union was oppressing so many countries that the Bishops had come from in regards to religious liberties. Blessed John Paul II knew the dangers of socialism and communism first hand.  It was he, along with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that helped bring down Communism in the Soviet Union. America, we need to wake up to these dangers for they are present in our country and will only increase if the current administration is re-elected.

I leave you with some of the words from the above document. The bold lettering is mine.

“The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right.” (Paragraph 2)

The Rise of the Faithful Catholics

On Monday, February 13, a religious order of faithful catholic sisters released this statement – read it here.

I read either on Facebook or another blog the statement, why doesn’t the media ever interview religious sisters that are faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church? It’s a good question, but one question, we already know the answer. The media isn’t searching for the truth, they are seeking to distort the truth and destroy Christianity, specifically, Catholicism.

There is no compromise with the HHS Mandate and if it’s going to take Civil Disobedience on the part of us faithful Catholics to reject this terrible and religious freedom-revoking mandate, then so be it! We must, as faithful Catholics (many non-Catholics have come to our defense as well) reject this mandate and all its false rhetoric and flawed statistics. Although this mandate is disguised under a “Healthcare” banner, the bigger issue of this mandate is religious freedom. I use the word “healthcare” with great care since sterilization, contraception, and abortion inducing pills cannot and should not be called “medicine.” Medicine should heal an individual not destroy or allow other diseases to rise.  Don’t forget – the issue here is RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

In Chapter I, section 2, the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) states, “…the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups, and every human power so that, within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in associations with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as we know through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.” (Italicized done by author). For us as faithful Catholics, this paragraph wraps up everything we will fight for when it comes to this mandate. We will not violate our conscience. We will not comply with this law.

As the lay faithful, we must stand with and support our Bishops in this endeavor. I know some of the Bishops in the past have not made the best decisions and have aligned themselves with people they should have clearly opposed. I also know that for 30 years in the US Church things were handled poorly and scandals arose. I further know that catechesis of the faith was watered-down and poor. I am not discrediting any of these issues, but our Bishops are taking a stance and we must support them in all that they do. Our new and young Bishops are strong, orthodox and faithful to the Church. They are attracting great men to the priesthood who are also orthodox and faithful. Religious orders that are faithful to the Church are on the rise and attracting men and women who want to give their lives to Christ and his Church. Oh yeah…one more thing…many of these orders – wear habits too! The “LPN” religious orders are going the way of the Dodo bird. “LPN” stands for Lapel Pin Nuns. You know them well – they dress like everyone else, wear a lapel pin cross and you wouldn’t know if they were a nun or a plumber.

One such order that is rising from Blessed John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization is the Dominican Sisters Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. They are religious sisters of the Dominican Order of Preachers. I have a great love for these holy women of God since I know the order very well and have worked with them in Phoenix, Arizona at St. Mary’s Catholic High School and currently at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin, Texas. In the summer of 2008, I was blessed to visit their Mother House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was invited by some of the sisters I knew in Phoenix at the time to attend their Final Vows. My words cannot do the experience justice, so I won’t even try to tell you how inspiring and beautiful it all was to me.

Mother Assumpta Long, the Prioress General and one of the four founders is one of the most amazing Catholic religious I have ever encountered. Holy, yet down to earth; educated, yet humble. And the young women that are flocking (and I mean as in the words of Forrest Gump…”I was Runnn-ing”) to this order mirror Mother Assumpta, yet have their own unique personalities and gifts. Over the past seven years of working with these sisters, I have met at least 50 of them, however, there are four that stand out to me since I worked with them or do so currently– Sister Mary David, Sister Mary Magdalene, Sister John Paul, and Sister Mary Elizabeth. 

I know times are tough with the current economic difficulties, but if you are looking for an organization to donate to, look no further than this great and holy religious order in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I would also encourage you to make a trip up to see their Mother House. Visit their website for more information.

As these faithful religious orders rise from the last 30 years of debunked Catholicism and as the new wave of faithful Bishops,  priests, and religious come from the JP II generation, we too, the lay faithful, must rise and be as faithful as our pastors and shepherds. Let us stand in solidarity with one another and with the generations before us who were oppressed by tyrannical governments oppressing religious freedom.

As the Christians came forth from the catacombs in the 4th century, we must rise up as they did and bring Jesus Christ and Church with us. It’s time…our time…The Rise of the Faithful Catholics begins now!

Other faithful religious orders for your browsing:

Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration 

Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Missionaries of Charity

Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia

Sisters of Life

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Benedictines – Prince of Peace Abbey