By Eddie O'Neill - OSV Newsweekly, 4/8/2012
According to Father Francis Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio, the emails have been pouring in for the last month. The sentiments expressed go something like this: “I am here in Hoboken, N.J., praying the Rosary with you; thank you for doing this Rosary. It keeps me on track; my kids look forward to it every morning as we head off to school.”
All of these emails and testimonials are in response to Relevant Radio’s 54 Day Rosary Across America, which began Feb. 11.
Father Hoffman told Our Sunday Visitor that the Rosary novena was in response to the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that would force employers, including religious ones, to provide contraception/sterilization/abortifacients in their health plans.
“It was specifically initiated in response to the U.S. bishops’ call for fasting and prayer,” Father Hoffman said. “We cannot necessarily fast on the air; but we certainly can pray.”
Father Hoffman added that the intentions for this novena are that wisdom and justice prevail. “As well, prayers are being offered for the repeal of the HHS mandate which would force Catholics and others of good will to violate their conscience by paying for practices that are immoral.”
Calling all faithful
Relevant Radio’s prayer campaign against the mandate is one of many throughout the country. Last month, the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for a prayer campaign for the protection of religious liberty from threats, including the mandate.
“We call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the restoration of our First Freedom — religious liberty — which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great Nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition,” the bishops said in a statement titled “United for Religious Freedom.” “Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength — for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.”
At Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Franciscan Father Terence Henry, president of the university, urged those connected to the school to take up the battle. In his Ash Wednesday video address, he connected the Lenten season as a perfect time to work against the mandate.
“I ask all students, parents, alumni and friends to oppose the Health and Human Services mandate which is so morally objectionable,” he said. “In this holy season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal mysteries, I urge you to increase your prayers, acts of penance and good works to oppose the coercion of our wills. If the Church yields on this issue there will be no issues on which we can stand.”
Lisa Ferguson, Franciscan’s director of public relations, told OSV that Father Henry has issued similar calls to prayer in letters to the Franciscan community at large.
“He and several other priests on campus have also talked about the HHS mandate in their homilies as a threat to religious freedom and have invited the congregation to pray for protection for our religious liberty. This petition has been in our daily Prayers of the Faithful at all campus Masses,” she added.
On March 23, thousands of people, from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., gathered outside of courthouses, federal buildings and in local city parks as part of the Rally for Religious Freedom. Eric Scheidler, executive director for the Pro-Life Action League and organizer of the event, said the rallies came about in response to the bishops’ call for the laity to step up against attacks on religious rights.
“We wanted to bring a grass-roots, public activism to this fight,” Scheidler told OSV. He added that each individual rally had elements of prayer and speakers from various religious groups, as well as congressional representatives and political leaders. Also encouraged were the singing of Christian hymns and various prayers that leaders had scripted.
He told OSV that the more than 120 rallies were covered in prayer. In fact, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life wrote an ecumenical novena in preparation for the rally.
Father Hoffman noted that the call for nations or religious groups to prayer is nothing new.
Visit our conscience debate page for a collection of related articles!
He cited Pope Pius V, who in the 16th century asked Christians to pray the Rosary for freedom of Christians who were facing oppression by Turkish armies. In doing so, he united Christians in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, among others.
“Through the Rosary, Pius V united them all. In a miraculous turn of events, on the morning of Oct. 7, 1571, even though the Christian fleet was outnumbered three to one, they defeated the Turkish army in the Gulf of Lepanto,” Father Hoffman said. “Ever since then that day has been known as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary or Our Lady of Victory.”
When asked if he thought victory would occur today, Father Hoffman noted it’s up to God.
“However, one just needs to walk into the lobby of Relevant Radio and see the thousands of testimonials that are posted on our wall. These certainly are victories in the lives of ordinary folks across this nation who have been touched by our Rosary campaign.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from Wisconsin.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
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