National Catholic Prayer Breakfast - Uphold Religious Freedom; Enemies May Become Friends
there is a dictatorship but even where there is democracy.
He also applauded the bishops in the United States for their recent efforts in the area of religious freedom.
Sister Agnes Mary Donovan spoke last but not least. She began her talk with carefully chosen words, forcefully re-emphasizing the challenge that lay before us.
"We face a summons to action in response to a global and national reality which we are reluctant to perceive: Christians as the object of open persecution."
Just as forcefully she put our trial in context.
"A crisis such as the one," she remarked, "which the Catholic Church, Christians, and the faithful people of God of every religion, face at this moment in our nation can be a time for unprecedented growth and new life, if we respond with grace.
"In spite of the pain, confusion and difficulties, this moment - which is our moment - contains within it tremendous spiritual potential. This crisis is a summons."
She concluded by saying, "As inheritors of the Judeo-Christian faith, ours is the 'freedom story': A history of freedoms won and lost, both as a people and individually. It is the story of a people who exercised the freedom to live the great dignity of the human experience becoming who we are - and this same freedom shamelessly surrendered in weakness to the sirens that excite our passions, in fear to oppressors, and in faithlessness to the idols of the age.
"Freedom is given us by God that we may choose to love, and follow the way of transformation in Christ allowing ourselves to become a total self-gift to another. In the words of the Exultet, 'Awake, O sleeper,' for the crisis we face urgently demands that we exercise and grow in this precious freedom by loving others (in the words of Mother Teresa) 'until it hurts.'
".Seize that freedom! Avail yourselves of the sacrament which frees us from the bondage of sinfulness. Secure that freedom! Receive from the treasury of grace at Holy Mass, in times of personal prayer and in the praise and adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Be a witness to the greatest freedom of all - women and men fully alive in the Lord capable of reflecting the glory of God."
Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, the newly appointed Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter concluded the breakfast with some remarks and a benediction. The words he chose, which came from Book I of St. Augustine's "City of God" clearly put the call to action heard throughout the morning in context.
From Augustine's writings, part of what he quoted said, ".But let this city bear in mind, that among her enemies lie hidden those who are destined to be fellow citizens, that she may not think it a fruitless labor to bear what they inflict as enemies until they become confessors of the faith.
"These men you may today see thronging the churches with us, tomorrow crowding the theatres with the godless. But we have the less reason to despair of the reclamation even of such persons, if among our most declared enemies there are now some, unknown to themselves, who are destined to become our friends."
The message each attendee took away underscored the need to stand for religious liberty, both here and abroad. This is not a localized condition and Christians everywhere are in the crosshairs.
But as we stand, we cannot let hatred or enmity take root in our hearts. The spirit of the Gospel and the grace available to all - including our enemies - must be of paramount importance. Some of our enemies are destined to become our friends!
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: National, Catholic, Prayer, Breakfast, Carl Anderson, Archbishop Chullikatt, Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, Religious Freedom, Religious Liberty
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