April 23 marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of César Chávez, the great Mexican-American civil rights leader.
I have been thinking a lot about him as we prepare to celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher on June 22.
Both were executed during the Protestant Reformation in England because they refused to bow to the political pressures of King Henry VIII — who demanded that they accept his “supremacy” over the Church and deny the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of marriage.
St. John Fisher was a bishop, so his witness of courage has a powerful meaning for me as your Archbishop.
St. Thomas More was a layman. He was a loving father and husband; a loyal son of the Church; an upright lawyer and civil servant.
And in many ways, we need to learn from his example today.
Because Thomas More was also a selfless servant of truth and a servant of people; a man of conscience who obeyed the law of God rather than the law of men. He was a faithful citizen who gave his life rather than compromise the truth and teaching of the Church.
Our times call for Catholic voices and faithful Catholic witnesses.
Right now in California and across the country, the Church faces deep challenges from the government.
The Church is not an institution or a corporation. The Church is a family, the family of God. We see that reality when we gather each week to worship Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We are one family made up of many families, each of us able to pray to God as “Our Father.”
To be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus, we need to be faithful citizens. For bishops and priests, that means stirring hearts and minds and forming consciences, nourishing people with the Bread of Life and the Word of God. We want to inspire people to love and serve the poor and to always be close to those in need. We want to motivate people to build a society worthy of the God-given dignity of every person.
Lay people carry out their duties of faithful citizenship by living their faith in the world — in their family, their work, in public life. By running for political office; by working within political parties; by communicating our concerns and positions to our elected officials; and by joining Church and community organizations that seek justice and the common good in society.
To assist you in carrying out your duties, the Archdiocese has established a new webpage, “Resources for Faithful Citizenship.” On this page you will find information to help you form your conscience in light of Catholic teaching and resources to become better informed about issues of importance to the Catholic community. You will also find information for contacting and learning more about your elected officials.
Through this new webpage, we provide a listing of the Catholic charities, parishes and schools serving in every legislative district in the Archdiocese. I found this to be very instructive. Because you can see directly the impact the Church has in our communities — through our immigration and refugee assistance programs; through our preschools and other services to working families and the poor; through our housing and health care programs; our elderly assistance programs; and all our works of community and neighborhood development.
The Church is a force for human dignity and social justice throughout our state. Which is why we need to fight to defend the Church.
Right now, my brother bishops and I in the California Catholic Conference are asking you to contact your Assembly Member and urge them to vote “no” on California Senate Bill 131. This legislation puts the social services and educational work of the Church at risk and unjustly discriminates against Catholic schools and other private employers. The bishops of the California Catholic Conference believe it is urgent for Catholics to act now.
You can find more background on SB 131 and information on how to contact your Assembly Member on our new webpage. You can reach this new page atwww.la-archdiocese.org.
Again this year, the United States Catholic Bishops are asking all of us to pray in a special way for religious liberty during these next two weeks, June 21 to July 4, which we have designated as a “Fortnight for Freedom.”
Let’s pray for our religious freedom this week — and let’s exercise that freedom by contacting our legislators about SB 131.
And let’s ask Our Lady of the Angels to help us to carry our duty to be faithful citizens with courage and strength.