There are moments when you’re really proud to be Catholic.
Then there are moments when you’re really proud to be American.
Last night, as I watched dozens upon dozens of priests process into Baltimore’s Basilica for the Mass to open the Fortnight for Freedom, I experienced both. As people filled every space in the cathedral on a hot summer night, I was just happy to have a seat—thanks to my father, who saved it for me. As I looked around, I saw religious brothers and sisters, families, children and grandparents, people of different races and languages. We were united not just for a cause, but in our faith—which is much greater than any cause.
When someone spotted Archbishop Lori walking in before Mass, everyone stood and clapped, giving him a warm, respectful welcome to Baltimore. It was my first time meeting our new archbishop—even though I just barely got to shake his hand in the crowd outside the Basilica afterwards. But I got to hear him give the homily, and I found his words were delivered as powerfully in person as they are in writing.
When he opened with a story about being stranded in London by a snowstorm the week before Christmas a few years ago, I had to smile. You see, John and Leo and I were stranded by what I suspect was that same snowstorm in 2009, which closed airports all along the East Coast.
Instead of being stranded in London, however, we were stranded in Chicago on our way home from China with our new son. Rather than spending our time touring spots related to St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, as Archbishop Lori did, we rented a car to drive back to Baltimore, stopping at exotic places such as a McDonald’s in South Bend and nondescript rest stops selling Cup of Noodles soup. As so often happens, what seemed like an ordeal turned into an adventure, one we laugh about now and which is a fun part of Leo’s story.
This evening, though, I left the boys home with John, my generous husband who wanted me to be able to go to Mass. We wish we could have gone as a family, but it has been a busy week for the boys, and expecting them to come to an evening Mass with us seemed to be asking too much. I wish they had seen the cardinal and the bishops, the priests and religious. I wish they had heard the Basilica reverberate with “Faith of Our Fathers.” I wish they had received the archbishop’s blessing. We’ll have to find another opportunity.
Because my sons weren’t there, though, I was able to focus on the homily. And it was certainly worth hearing. The archbishop asked us “to connect worship on Sunday to work on Monday.” He explained why the HHS Mandate threatens religious freedom, and I found myself realizing that even the sisters from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who were sitting near me probably wouldn’t qualify for an exemption. Their work, after all—and thankfully—isn’t specifically for Catholics.
In the intentions, when we prayed for people whose religious freedom has been limited, my mind went to China, as it often does. I am so proud of my sons’ Chinese heritage, and we feel a great deal of gratitude to the Chinese people for letting us adopt these two wonderful boys into our family. But we are also well aware that the freedoms we have in the United States are not shared by those in China and other countries. That makes me even more passionate about this issue and more committed to working to preserve the religious freedoms we have.
And so, for the next two weeks, we will pray—in gratitude for the freedoms we have and with hope that they will continue to be preserved.
“Freedom is not the power of doing what we like, but rather the power of being able to do what we ought,” Archbishop Lori said at one point.
It was a night of joy. It was a night of hope. And it was exhilarating.
June 22, 2012 08:34
By Rita Buettner