At all the Sunday Masses this weekend, a letter from our bishop is being read from the pulpits regarding religious liberty and the Fortnight for Freedom. The bishops of the United States have called for a period of prayer, catechesis, and action from June 21 (the vigil of the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher) to July 4. I will be blogging during that time about the saints whose feasts we celebrate during those two weeks- heroes for true liberty.
As the letter was being read aloud, I wondered what the people around me thought. Were they listening? Was this the first they had heard about the fortnight? Are they tired of hearing about religious liberty? Do they understand the urgency? Are they grateful that we have such a strong leader in our bishop? Do they agree? Disagree? Or are they apathetic? Do they wonder why it should matter to them?
It made me think about times throughout history when letters were read out loud from pulpits, such as when the Dutch bishops condemned the actions of Hitler. The bishops distributed a pastoral letter that was read from the pulpit of every Catholic Church in the Netherlands. Sadly, this heroic action had deadly repercussions, as the Nazis rounded up even more Jews, including St. Edith Stein and her sister.
It’s easy for us to read about these events in history and, in hindsight, see them as turning points. But what did the Catholics think in the pews at that time? Did they think the bishops were overreacting? Did they agree? Or disagree? Or were they apathetic? Did they wonder why it should matter to them?