Solemnity of St. John the Baptist
Faith, Fortitude and the Fortnight for Freedom
by Fr. Mark O'Donnell
*** “He must increase but I must decrease”
-Those simple, direct words of St. John The Baptist, whose feast we
celebrate today, summarize the life of the Christian disciple.
-In all things, we want Jesus to increase and our own will, our own
desires, our own attachments, to decrease.
-In my heart, in my prayer, in my family, in my parish, in my work, in
my study, in my leisure, in my entertainment, may the Lord Jesus
-In our common life together as Americans, in our civil society, in our
politics-may the Lord Jesus increase!
-In the time of Jesus, the king decreased the space for the things of
God; he did not want to hear the voice of religious truth, he did not
want to permit the preachers the freedom to preach.
-St. John the Baptist refused to acquiesce to the kings unjust
demands. For his fidelity he was imprisoned and beheaded.
-So were John Fisher and Thomas More, all because they stood firm
in their faith and in the truth they were cut down and beheaded.
-The Lord Jesus tells us that John the Baptist is the greatest of all
born of woman. Perhaps, his greatest virtue was his fortitude.
-He was truly fearless in his preaching. John the Baptist was
martyred for speaking the truth about the king, and from him we have
much to learn about fortitude in defense of our faith, and in defense of
***The Catholic Bishops of the U.S. have declared a Fortnight for
Freedom, asking Catholics to engage in a “great hymn of prayer for
our country” and a “national campaign of teaching and witness for
-Our Bishops have asked us to look to the great saints of Catholic
history whose courage we can emulate.
-The fortnight began on June 21st, the vigil of the Feast of Saints John
Fisher and Thomas More, who, like John the Baptist, were beheaded
by a king who desired them not to speak the truth about the Church
and the sacred bond of marriage of which I celebrated two wonderful
sacramental marriages yesterday of two couples in two different
-During this coming week we celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and
Paul, who likewise were martyred by the Roman Emperor for their
preaching of Jesus Christ. And the fortnight concludes on July 4th,
the day when we celebrate our American Liberty.
-Our first, most cherished liberty as Americans is religious freedom.
-It is the first freedom enumerated in the First Amendment. It is the
foundation of all our freedoms, for if Americans are not free in their
consciences, in their religious faith, in their corporal works of mercy,
then all our freedoms are fragile.
-When the government commands us to do what God commands us
not to do, the American heritage of freedom is threatened.
-And the response of the Christian citizen as we learned vividly in the
example of Revered Martin Luther King, Jr. is to refuse to obey an
-Our Bishops have identified several attacks on religious liberty.
-Recently, enacted federal regulations dictate what purpose a church
must have and try to define what a church must be before the federal
government will defend our right to religious freedom.
-Recently enacted state legislation includes measures that outlaw any
kind of spiritual and charitable assistance given by the Church to
***When the government says that we must do what our faith forbids
us to do, or when it says we cannot do what our faith mandates us to
do, then we too might be called to have the courage of John the
Baptist to refuse those unjust orders. It is a stark question that we
face: Shall the government increase, and Jesus decrease?
***The Fortnight for Freedom reminds us that our liberty is not
something we have invented for ourselves, much less is it the
largesse of the government. It is God’s gift. We have been set free
in Christ Jesus for freedom. The genius of the American experiment
in ordered liberty is that it recognized this.
-As Catholics and Americans we insist again upon that recognition.
We insist today as John the Baptist insisted before King Herod; we
insist today as Peter and Paul insisted before the Emperor Nero; we
insist today as Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More insisted
before King Henry VIII, Grant us freedom or give me death for my
faith, and beliefs.
-We pray then, calling upon the intercession of John the Baptist, for
all branches and levels of government, that our religious liberties be
-More urgent though we pray that all Christian disciples may have the
fortitude to stand up for our faith and our freedom.
-In standing fast for our faith, in standing fast for our freedom, we
know that we may have to suffer and to sacrifice.
-Perhaps, we may decrease. No matter in the larger scheme of
things. All that matters is that Jesus increases!!!!!!!
-May it always be so in this blessed land of Liberty. Amen.