Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind a blessing, Grain offering and libation for the LORD, your God. Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent. Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, LORD! do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Even though we are in the middle of the Octave of Christmas, there is a call to begin Lent early, as this excerpt from the First Reading of Ash Wednesday reminds us.
On December 6, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement urging the faithful "to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to life and marriage and for increased protections of religious liberty." Approved by the bishops in November, this "pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice—it's meant to be simple," said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. While this is all voluntary on the part of individuals, parishes, and dioceses, it is also a tangible way in this Year of Faith to practice what we preach.
The five-point plan:
1.Starting with the Sunday after Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family) and continuing on or near the last Sunday of every month through Christ the King Sunday, November 2013, cathedrals and parishes are encouraged to hold a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty.
2.Families and individuals are encouraged to pray a daily Rosary, especially for the preservation of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty in the nation.
3.At Sunday and daily Masses, it is encouraged that the Prayers of the Faithful include specific intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life, and the preservation of religious liberty at all levels of government, both at home and abroad.
4.Abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays are encouraged for the intention of the protection of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church.
5.The celebration of a second Fortnight for Freedom at the end of June and the beginning of July 2013 is being planned. This Fortnight would emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time. The Fortnight would also emphasize the need for conscience protection in light of the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, as well as religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption, and humanitarian services.
Religious faith is not meant to be put under a bushel basket nor shoved out of the public arena.
Static religious practice is not religious practice at all.
"The God Who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time."