Tag Archives: Religious Freedom

Fast for Freedom promotes prayer for nation’s future

October 29, 2012

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Fasters include, left to right: Jeremy Berfanger, Katarina Hemstad, Meghan Mueller, Anne Crouch, Lauren Bickford, Dain Finney, Peter Murphy and Andrew Nistler.

With Election Day nearing, many Catholics are still mulling over a host of issues as they prepare to vote Nov. 6. To help them get ready, a college junior from Coon Rapids is working with a group of fellow students to promote prayer and fasting as a way to unify Catholics and so that voters and leaders may receive the grace to make morally sound decisions.

“Our country’s morality no longer is based on objective right or wrong, but a sliding scale of how good something feels for the most people,” said Meghan Mueller, a nursing major at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., who previously attended St. Paul in Ham Lake. “In many cases, it seems as if truth has been completely taken out of the picture. From this stems many of the major issues our country is facing: the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage, and the right to religious freedom.”

The Fast for Freedom initiative — which asks people to abstain from meat or something else as an alternative until Election Day — began earlier this month among a few friends and others on campus. Since then, the effort has “spread like wildfire,” mostly by word of mouth, and includes students from St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul as well as family and friends in the Twin Cities area, Mueller said.

“As of now, we have it documented that about 800 people are partaking in the Fast for Freedom with us,” she said Oct. 26. “From recent reports, however, we have heard that many classrooms, schools and families have joined as well, so we project that participation is higher than we thought.”

In addition to fasting, participants are encouraged to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. on Fridays for the elections and the future of the country.

One election issue of particular concern to Mueller, a nursing major, is religious liberty, especially in light of the federal Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.

The mandate requires all employers, including most Catholic and other religious employers, to provide coverage in their health care plans for contraceptives — including some that can cause abortions — and sterilizations despite moral objections they might have.

If the mandate remains in place, “we will be forced to go against our conscience and provide ‘services’ . . . that we believe are intrinsically evil and have been scientifically proven as harmful,” Mueller said.

“This issue most definitely affects my life in a very real way,” she said. “If our religious freedom is taken away, working as a Catholic nurse will be like walking through a health care minefield.”

Anyone who wants to let the students know they are joining the fast, or who has questions, can email them at fast4freedom2012@gmail.com.

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Anne, Thomas and a Marriage Story

October 26, 2012


I happened to catch the movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” the other day. It is the story of Anne Boleyn and it could be said that her story is the other side of St. Thomas More’s story. I am not a historian and I am sure that it can be said that this movie may not be fully historical fact, but it does portray a story that is pertinent for today. It is a story about marriage and the redefinition of it.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives here is the short of it. King Henry wants a new wife and the Pope won’t give him an annulment. He defines himself as head of the church so that he can divorce his wife and marry the woman he is lusting for ~ Anne Boleyn. Anne manipulates her own sexuality to ultimately become queen of England. In the process she becomes the object [or cause] of the fall of the Catholic Church in England and the beginning of the Church of England. Again, I am not an expert on history, but this is the simplistic version of what I know.  You can find more of St. Thomas More’s life at: http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/2012/06/22/fortnight-for-freedom-day-2-st-thomas-more-married-saint-and-hero-of-religious-liberty/

Ultimately this historic story is about the defense of marriage. St. Thomas More as Lord Chancellor of England lost his life defending the Church and marriage. Anne, fueled by competitive drive, or possibly in this time of few rights for women – a sense of survival – succumbed to her own desires while fulfilling the desires of the King.

It is sometimes best for me to learn from a poor example rather than a good one. As I watched this film and the portrait of Anne – it struck me that it was her ambition that was her downfall. Her drive to be in control, her manipulation of the truth, her need to succeed that ultimately did her in. She wasn’t alone in this – King Henry’s needs seemed simpler or at least more direct – that of lust and perhaps to sire a son. Which I guess breaks down into sex and power. St. Thomas More was motivated by his knowlege of the truth. What do I want to be motivating me?

How much is our defense of marriage today like that of St. Thomas More’s dilemma?

To stand as the church teaches is not popular –while it may not cost you your life, it may cost you your friends. The acceptance of Anne Boleyn as Queen – redefined Marriage in England and King Henry created his own church so he could define the church to fit his needs. Today we have many who want to redefine marriage to suit their needs. It may be driven by power, lust or a type of manipulation – all under the guise of wanting to profess equality.

Ultimately Anne got what she wanted, but eventually lost her head and St. Thomas More also ultimately died defending marriage by not conceding to Anne as queen. It took courage. St. Thomas More showed us this courage in a few ways. First he lived his marriage rightly by loving his wife until widowed and strongly loved his family. Second, he stood strong on the teachings of the church -even though it cost him his life. He didn’t recognize the marriage of King Henry to Anne Boleyn because he knew that no one could redefine what was defined by God  – not even the king.

I am left wondering how I might behave in St. Thomas More’s shoes. Or maybe I am in them. How will I defend marriage? Our defence of our beliefs on marriage today deals with the same sex marriage issue, but much can be learned from Anne and Thomas.
If you struggle with the “Church” getting involved in matters of marriage or think there is no place for it. The story of Anne and Sir Thomas may give us some historical perspective on what happens when the “state” takes into its hands – redefining marriage. You may want to pick up “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “A Man for All Seasons” and see who you want to stand with? Will you defending the truth or choose to bend with the crowd or follow selfish motives?
A St. Thomas More Prayer for Religious Freedom and more information can be found on the website Unique for a Reason. http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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Religious freedom, it’s in American bones

June 7, 2012


Roger Williams is my newest hero.

Yes, that Roger Williams, the one you remember from elementary school history class, the Puritan preacher banished from Massachusetts who went on to found a colony of his own, Rhode Island.

A book published this year – “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty” – goes way past those few paragraphs that your American history course spared.

As politics of our day have breathed life into the topic of religious freedom and the role of the church in civic life, learning more about Williams’ struggles against the all-powerful leaders of his day is timely.

Knowing more about the religious oppression that the Puritans sought to escape, knowing more about how the Puritans themselves oppressed people in the name of religion, knowing more about the deep-seated religiosity of the United States, and knowing more about the hatred of Catholics that lingers still in the United States, all that is even more valuable.

 Prejudice came across the sea

Author John M. Barry takes readers back to 16th century Europe to add perspective to Roger Williams’ life and works. In England and France back then, Catholics were slaughtering Protestants, and Protestants were slaughtering Catholics. They would do so for centuries, even up to the 20th.

The Reformation brought rule of the church together with the rule of kings and queens, linking the two in what was widely accepted as “the divine right of kings,” another flashback to grade school history.

Barry does a thorough job – maybe more than necessary – documenting the historical background so readers know who the Puritans are and why they fled England for the colonies. The history of the colonists once on North American soil seems more pertinent, and Barry covers the waterfront on that era.

There is an incredible amount of I-never-knew-thats in these 395 pages. For instance, did you know:

  • Virtually every government in England and New England fined people who didn’t attend worship – and that it was a revenue stream for those governments?
  • The colonists who arrived with the Massachusetts Bay Company worried that Catholic powers might attack them?
  • The English saw the need to colonize in North America as a bulwark against the further spread of Catholicism because of the Spanish and French incursions in the hemisphere?
  • If the Puritan church in Massachusetts excommunicated a person, no member of the colony – Puritan or not – could eat with them or even greet them on the street?
  • To avoid “heathenish and idols’ names,” Massachusetts stopped using names for the days of the weeks and months of the year?

 Seeking liberty from church and state

Roger Williams sees so much of these actions and prohibitions as misuse of both power and religion. Barry describes Williams’ thinking along these lines in plain language:

“. . . he had seen enough of power. He clearly had no desire to direct other men’s lives. He had even less desire to be directed by others. To him all that mattered was that he and every other person in his plantation (Rhode Island) could worship or not worship God in whatever manner he or she desired. . . .”

“He was saying that mixing church and state corrupted the church. He was saying that when one mixes religion and politics one gets politics.”

It comes as no surprise that it was Roger Williams who is likely the first to write of the need for a “wall of separation” between church and state. Nor that Williams’ religious beliefs influenced Rhode Island to be perhaps the first government anywhere in the world to outlaw slavery.

While not all of Williams’ thinking is worthy of admiration or acceptance, his story carries a level of historic importance to us today. For me, that’s a story that is the root of a conclusion I’ve come to believe more and more holds this kernel of truth: You can’t tell Americans that HAVE TO do anything. We see it playing out in so many things today in civic life and the church — from the provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act to the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Roger Williams brought the cornerstone with him from England in the 16th century. Now in the 21st century – 350 or so years later – U.S. citizens enjoy the freedom of worship that Williams modeled, yet how much influence religion has on civic affairs and how far government can go to impose on one’s religious beliefs, these are topics of the day just as they were in colonial times.

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Twin Cities Rally for Religious Freedom

March 20, 2012

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Please participate in this nationwide effort to help defeat the HHS Mandate. Hear religious leaders and other public figures speak about why this mandate is un-American and does not embrace life. Let’s make our voices peacefully heard in opposition to the requirement that all employers’ health plans provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

According to Mary Jane O’Brien on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC):

On Friday, March 23, thousands of faithful citizens will gather in public witness and prayer across the United States to oppose the HHS mandate. Minnesotans are coming together to stand in solidarity with Americans throughout the country.

Please join us!

  • What: Twin Cities Rally for Religious Freedom
  • When: Friday, March 23 from noon-1:00p.m.
  • Site: Warren E. Burger Federal Building and United States Courthouse
  • Address: 316 North Robert Street, 100 Federal Building, St. Paul, Mn. 55101
  • Map: Click here

Ideas for signs:

  • “Stand Up for Religious Freedom”
  • “Stop the HHS Mandate”
  • “I Have a Say, Too!”

Other Information:

  • To find national locations and learn more about the growing campaign to stop the HHS mandate, click here.
  • For more information on this endeavor and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, click here.
  • You can also visit Pro-Life Action Ministries.
  • Spread the word!
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