In our ongoing look at the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Freedom of December 7, 1965, the Council Fathers say that governments should not only not deny religious freedom but that they should "show it favor". Since religious belief is a good within society and culture, governments should foster and aid the good that it brings to the life of the community. We are not speaking of fostering one religion over another, which is what the first amendment seeks to prevent, but rather of creating an environment where religious life flourishes and its benefits can contribute to the common good.
Religious beliefs are communal as well as personal in nature. Our relationship with God calls us into community. As long as the just religious and civil rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must be free to practice the faith. They must be free to gather for worship, to be instructed in the faith, to develop institutions that further religious life. They must not be impeded in selecting their own leaders or in their ability to be loyal to both Church and country, as the Council Fathers state. Remembering that this Declaration was universal in scope, and that not all areas of the world are blessed with the protection of our Constitution, these are important words. But we must never take our freedoms and rights for granted. Religious liberty in the United States is our "first freedom" guaranteed by law, not by the blessing of a governing body or administration. This freedom must be seen in its broadest and most inclusive context - and not narrowly and exclusively. Our ministries, our educational and social outreach, our efforts to bring Christ to others, warrant religious freedom protection.
A GRATEFUL HEART
This past Sunday the parish was belatedly able to express our gratitude to the many workers of our annual Lenten Fish Dinners. We had over 125 people involved during Lent in all aspects of the dinner project. We have repeatedly expressed our thanks, but on Sunday afternoon we had a catered dinner that about sixty were able to attend to say thanks in a formal way. It was a great afternoon of good food, fellowship and relaxation. I am impressed by the hard work and enthusiasm of these good people, young and old, to this major effort in our parish. The only truly difficult thing on Sunday was keeping them away from the kitchen ... or serving ... or the clean up crew ... or helping in any way.
Many said that the dinner was not necessary, that I am always saying "thank you" to them and to all who minister in so many ways. But as I pointed out, I'm always open to a good meal and a chance to celebrate. I find it necessary to express my gratitude to God first and then to those who touch my life, and to express that gratitude with "a grateful heart".