The United States Bishops’ Conference is celebrating what they call the “Fortnight for Freedom.” It began back on Thursday, June 21st, the Memorial of St. Thomas More and John Fisher, and is continuing until July 4. It is a very timely and important event for us all. The Fortnight calls us to be a people of moral integrity.
Moral integrity comes when we recognize that there are principles of right and wrong. These principles are in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are unchangable. I cannot ignore them. I cannot alter them. You cannot alter them either. We must try to understand these unchangable truths. We must try our best to live them out in the particular circumstances of our lives. When we do this, we achieve a degree of moral integrity.
Each individual encounters moral truth in a unique way. Each individual brings the truth to life in a real way. A principle is only an ideal until a living person puts it into practice. Once a person embraces a moral truth, then that person lends their voice, their eyes, their hands, their minds, and their heart to the service of the truth. Reading about truth in a book is very dry. Hearing about right and wrong from your parents is often annoying. But once the truth is living through the life of a person, it becomes an irresistable force. Truth becomes a live-giving force through a man or woman who posesses moral integrity.
Remember Blessed John Paul II? Do you remember his compelling witness? He had a hard life. He was called to do things that seemed impossible. But he did it. He was a vehicle for the truth. He gave a unique expression to the truth. Through him, the truth triumphed! It set people free. Because of this, his life inspired many to live in the truth. The Pope embraced Christ, and embraced a life of integrity. John Paul II has shown us how to live with integrity of heart.
It is so important to celebrate the Fortnight for Freedom because it is a call for a renewal of moral integrity. The Church (Catholics, Protestants, all faithful Christians) is facing the coercive power of the state. This is very troubling. We worry about the state running the affairs of the Church (a truly unbelievable proposition in the United States of America). We also worry about the moral wasteland that our kids are wandering through as they mature. What about the moral wasteland that we wander in? It’s not just the youth that are confronted with a corrupt culture. All of us are. How will we confront these depressing forces? How will we maintain hope?
We must become people of integrity. Are you tired of being led down an evil way by people that (either knowingly or unknowingly) lack integrity? I know I am. Our only choice is to become people of integrity ourselves. Through people of integrity, the truth will conquer all, and be a compelling witness to hope.
It is fashionable to complain about our Bishops. The lack of moral integrity amongst Bishops and Priests shook the confidence of many people. Now, we must be fully supportive of our Bishops. Now is an exciting time to stand up and put into action what you learned from your parents, your grandparents, your teachers, your priests, and your nuns. Now is the time to embrace true moral principles, and live them out in your everyday life. We must defend freedom and goodness, but such a defense will only be credible to people if we make such principles a reality by the way we choose to live.
St. Thomas More was deprived of freedom. He was pressured to give up his moral integrity by swearing an oath to the government. He chose rightly, and remains a compelling witness of moral integrity today. I end with a quote from “A Man for all Seasons”, a play about Thomas More. This quote, I think, illuminates the path before us. This is a conversation he has with his daughter, Meg, while in prison.
If we lived in a State where virtue were profitable, common sense would make us good , and greed would make us saintly. And we‟d live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes.
But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice, and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all . . . why then perhaps we must stand fast a little – even at the risk of being heroes. (Bolt 140-41)
(this quote was taken from a paper entitled, “THE COURAGE OF CONSCIENCE: THE DEATHS OF SOCRATES AND THOMAS MORE” Bernard Toussaint, Ph. D. Benedictine University)