Catholics in the Diocese of Raleigh were asked to offer their March 30th Friday Lenten sacrifices of prayer and abstinence on behalf of our Constitutional rights to religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The request by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge also included the discipline of fasting.
In tandem with the request, Bishop Burbidge celebrated Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral for the intention of religious freedom. In his homily, the Bishop spoke of the mandate Jesus gave, “'Take up your cross and follow me.' We know the price that Jesus paid. He never compromised the Truth he was sent to teach and preach----and neither must we.”
The Bishop spoke of the recent mandate handed down by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that directs almost all employers and all insurers to provide sterilization, abortifacients and contraceptives in their health care plans. Bishop Burbidge said it is a mandate that we cannot embrace and accept, since it would “force our institutions as well as secular insurers and for profit religious employers and individuals to violate their core beliefs.”
Citing the First Amendment to the Constitution, Bishop Burbidge said, “The unprecedented intrusion from a government bureau in this area continues to be challenged by people of all faiths and denominations.” He added, “Please know that the Catholic Bishops of the United States are united in our efforts to rescind any government mandate forcing us to violate our conscience, our identity and the Gospel of Life.
”With the strength and grace of the Eucharist,” Bishop Burbidge said, “we renew our promise, especially as we approach the holiest of weeks, to embrace and obey the mandate of Jesus who tells us to take up our cross and follow him.”
Father Marcos Leon, V.F. Dean of the Cape Fear Deanery and Pastor of Sacred Heart in Whiteville and Our Lady of the Snows in Elizabethtown, celebrated a Mass for Religious Liberty at St. Mark Church in Wilmington, attended by approximately 300 people.
Watch Bishop Burbidge’s homily (Windows Media)
Read Bishop Burbidge’s homily
Prayer for Religious Liberty (USCCB)
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.