Ladies and gentlemen, we have successfully made it through another school year at WWU, which means I get to sit back, relax and have only one job for a few beautiful months. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love college ministry, but it’s good to take a break once in a while, something that unfortunately I’m not very good at. To this end I am leaving immediately following the 11:00 a.m. Mass today and heading for an airplane that will bring me to my poor man’s paradise with $20 golf and pizza by the slice for a buck. I have been sooooo waiting for this! Surprisingly enough even though I have been out of the office so much I haven’t gone on vacation since last October and it most definitely is time. I will be back for Masses next weekend and then I have the priest retreat at Ocean Shores, so it will be a great leisurely kick-off to a great summer of rest and recharge.
Each year for the last number of years, starting on the 21st of June, exactly two weeks before the Fourth of July, the bishops of the United States have called on the people of God to prayer and sacrifice for religious freedom. This year their theme is “Freedom to Bear Witness.” In many places around the world, Christians and people of other faiths are not allowed to openly practice their faith because of governmental or societal pressures. The bishops ask that we might take the two weeks prior to our Independence Day to pray for those around the world, and also for the United States.
Often we forget our freedom of religious expression is eroding little by little and in subtle ways. Many children are afraid to pray at school, whereas fifty years ago prayer in the classroom, even in public schools, was commonplace. There are cases before the courts as we speak about whether a priest can be held in contempt of court for not relating information heard in the confessional, and many religious organizations have been forced to close their doors due to their refusal to submit to laws that they feel are contrary to their beliefs.
In many ways we here in the United States are the model for the rest of world as to what a truly free society looks like. Let us pray that we, as a people, think all things through to their logical end before we simply surrender to popular opinion. I’ve always wondered if I could get elected President by promising to give everyone in the U.S. a million dollars. It sounds like a great deal until you realize that doing something like that would ruin our financial infrastructure. A wise man once said, “A man is not truly free until he is no longer enslaved to his own passions.” There are prayer cards at the entry of the church to remind us to pray during this time. Pray that we may all find this freedom before the Lord returns.
Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen