The U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a pastoral strategy addressing life, marriage and religious liberty concerns.
The five-part strategy was approved by the bishops in November and is set to begin after Christmas. The focus is to invite Catholics to pray to rebuild a culture favorable to life and marriage, and for increased protections of religious liberty, according to a Dec. 6 news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The campaign includes monthly eucharistic holy hours in cathedrals and parishes, daily family rosary, special Prayers of the Faithful at all Masses, fasting and abstinence on Fridays, and observance of a Fortnight for Freedom.
The USCCB said the call to prayer is prompted by rapid social movements and policy changes currently under way, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate and increased efforts to redefine marriage.
“The pastoral strategy is essentially a call to prayer and sacrifice — it’s meant to be simple,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “It’s not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for life, marriage and religious liberty, which engages the new evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith.”
Details of the strategy are:
- Cathedrals and parishes are encouraged to hold a eucharistic holy hour for life, marriage, and religious liberty on or near the last Sunday of every month starting on the Sunday after Christmas (feast of the Holy Family) and continuing through the feast of Christ the King.
- Families and individuals are encouraged to pray a daily rosary, especially for the preservation of life, marriage and religious liberty in the nation.
- At Sunday and daily Masses, it is encouraged that the Prayers of the Faithful include specific intentions for respect for all human life from conception to natural death, the strengthening of marriage and family life, and the preservation of religious liberty at all levels of government, both at home and abroad.
- Abstinence from meat and fasting on Fridays are encouraged for the intention of protecting life, marriage and religious liberty, recognizing the importance of spiritual and bodily sacrifice in the life of the Church.
- The celebration of a second Fortnight for Freedom is being planned for the end of June and the beginning of July 2013. It would emphasize faith and marriage in a particular way in the face of the potential Supreme Court rulings during this time.It would also emphasize the need for conscience protection in light of the Aug. 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, as well as religious freedom concerns in other areas, such as immigration, adoption and humanitarian services.
A website with resources from the USCCB is available at: http://WWW.USCCB.ORG/LIFE-MARRIAGE-LIBERTY.
“With the challenges this country is facing, it is hoped that this call to prayer and penance will help build awareness among the faithful as well as spiritual stamina and courage for effective witness,” Archbishop Cordileone said.