Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week we celebrated the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time after the long journey of Lent, Triduum, and Easter followed by the solemnity’s of Trinity Sunday and the Body and Blood of Christ.  Normally we would continue the Sundays of Ordinary time, however today June 24 is the birth of John the Baptist a

solemnity in our church calendar which takes precedence over a Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Some patristic writings claim that the birth of Jesus was placed in the calendar when the days begin to lengthen in the

Northern Hemisphere.  The birth of St. John the Baptist we celebrate today marks the time when the days are getting shorter: “he must increase, I must decrease.”

Fr. Emmet asked me to relay to you his grateful appreciation for all the kind notes and good wishes that he received from all of us last weekend.  If you didn’t get the chance to say good-bye, he has returned to St. Anthony of Padua Friary, 71 Bartholdi Avenue Butler, NJ 07405.

These days leading up to Independence Day, the Bishops of the United States have called for prayer and reflection in a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education, and action in support of religious freedom. The call is warranted by recent actions undertaken by federal, state, and local governments that challenge long-established and protected religious freedom principles, protected by the Constitution.

The reflections offered are based on the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae).

The reflection for today June 24 is:

It is through their consciences that human beings perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they are to grow in their knowledge of and union with God. Again, the Council restates that, because of this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs. To forbid the just and proper public expressions of religious belief would be contrary to the order that God has established for human beings as social and religious beings.  The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.  In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private? Why should religion have a voice in the public square?

More reflections and information about this is included in Bishop Burbidge’s letter, on the following page, as well as a link to “Fortnight for Freedom” on our parish web site’s main page.  I encourage you to avail yourself of these resources.

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

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