||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
As we celebrated Memorial Day this week, I know that our thoughts and prayers were, and are, very much with our men and women who serve so generously and courageously in the armed forces and those who have gone to see the face of Christ, especially those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
Fighting for our freedom
We never forget that they fought and are fighting for our freedom. They believe that our freedom is worth living for and dying for.
Such a witness to freedom leads me to consider what true freedom really is. It is hard to believe, for instance, that our service men and women are willing to lay down their lives so that someone may choose to watch pornography, or to become irresponsibly intoxicated, or to get high on drugs. In our culture these behaviors often arouse the feeling of freedom, as somehow our culture has embraced the conviction that we prove our freedom by freely choosing whatever we like, including evil.
I would submit that this is precisely not the freedom for which our servicemen and women are called to lay down their lives.
They are willing to lay down their lives so that we might be free in the deepest human sense, free to become ever more human, according to the language of creation, the ecology of human nature which God the Creator imprinted on our being from the very first moments of our existence.
As Blessed John Paul II said to us on one of his last visits to our nation, “freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
The highest form of freedom
The highest form of this freedom is, of course, the freedom of religion, the freedom to say and do all that is necessary so as to reach eternal life and to avoid that which would keep us from such a goal. There is no choice in our lives more important than the ultimate choice of the blessing or the curse — the choice of life for all eternity or eternal death in hell.
It is for this most important freedom of religion and freedom of conscience that now 43 Catholic entities have joined in 12 different lawsuits against the government — that is the current Administration and, particularly, the Department of Health and Human Services — for the protection of our freedom of religion and our freedom of conscience.
If this freedom is indeed worth living and dying for, it is certainly worth the sacrifice that we might be called upon to make as believers, so as to do everything possible to protect our religious freedom at home.
Time to protect our freedom
It is perfectly natural then, that the Memorial Day celebration just concluded is a time of renewal for all of us in our absolute determination to do all that is necessary to protect our freedom of religion and freedom of conscience from those governmental policies and agencies which would take it away, in really an unprecedented way.
We really have been, and will be, engaging in battle over this matter.
Indeed it is a struggle even for our voices to be heard, because the mass media — network television and the printed news especially — have decided to bury the story of this, the most significant religious freedom lawsuit in American history, to defend the religious freedom of all Americans.
This news has been buried in short columns in the middle of the newspaper, or not mentioned at all on the network evening news. As someone remarked in recent days, “this is surely a sign of the shameful prejudice that exists in the United States against the Catholic Church.” Threats to our religious freedom cannot stand — so many have lived and died for that most precious of all our freedoms.
Ordination of transitional deacons
Secondly, last Friday we were blessed to celebrate the ordination of two transitional deacons — Vincent Brewer and Garrett Kau — who, in a year’s time, will be called to the Order of the Priesthood.
They are wonderful men, and in receiving the Order of Diaconate, they also use their human freedom, including their freedom of religion, to pledge themselves to lives of perpetual celibacy.
They are actually willing (even in the year 2012!) to sacrifice the companionship of marriage and all that it entails, for the sake of God’s kingdom, God’s truth, and God’s people.
This singular act of freedom is a perfect example of the power of true freedom, not to choose whatever we feel like, but to choose according to the highest ideals of Jesus Christ and His Church. This pledge of celibacy opens the door of freedom wide in their hearts, so that they may love God above all things and offer themselves to the service of the Church with an absolutely complete gift of self.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he pointed to the “heavenizing” of our humanity, to the God-given capacity of our human freedom to reach for and keep fixed on the things, “that are above.”
The free choice — with God’s grace — of celibacy and chastity, by young men or women, is perhaps the greatest proof for the existence of God for a world that wishes to forget God. The reception of Holy Orders by two great young men is a cause of deep joy and thanksgiving for all in the Diocese of Madison.
Pray for increase of vocations
We also rejoice in the fact that there are, in fact, priests-to-be in the “pipeline.” And all of us should renew our dedication at the time of diaconal ordination, to pray and sacrifice for the increase of vocations to the priesthood in our diocese.
Please join me in praying fervently for Vincent and Garrett in the days ahead, and in praying for all those men discerning a call to the priesthood, and too, for all the young women entering into lives of chaste service to Jesus and the Church.
Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!