You are now living in a country which is rapidly becoming secularized. Now we have a White House that begins to make distinctions between freedom of religion and freedom of worship. Freedom of religion is a right. It’s guaranteed in the First Amendment. And yet, by euphemism and turn-of-phrase, the present administration talks about freedom of worship. The Red Chinese speak about freedom of worship; the old communists and the Soviet Union spoke about freedom of worship. There is a big difference between freedom of religion and freedom of worship.
Freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by the Constitution, tells us that we have a place in the public square, that we have a right and an obligation in conscience, not given to us by a state, but given to us by Almighty God. That is our fundamental right, a right to go out and to speak the truth to power.
But instead, we hear now about a freedom of religion now called freedom of worship. What does that mean? It means you go to your little church, or synagogue, or mosque on Sunday, or Saturday, or Friday night, and you make your prayers over there quietly and don’t bother anybody. And we’ll all get along just fine in this godless, secular world that we are creating; a world in which there is no truth except the truth that man manufactures. And without a truth that comes from Almighty God, all of our rights are in jeopardy.
Will you have the courage to exercise your First Amendment right, freedom of religion? Or are you going to be satisfied with freedom of worship?—I’ll say my prayers quietly; I won’t bother anybody; I won’t disturb the society in which I live.
Right now our Church is being threatened. You don’t often think of it that way; this couldn’t happen in America. And so you hear about an administration that is forcing an HHS Mandate on us, telling us that we must provide in our Catholic institutions abortifacients, sterilizations. For us, that is a moral aberration. It is something that we cannot do. And why is it being pushed on us? Because if we do not obey, then our Catholic colleges, and our hospitals, and our Catholic outreach institutions will be fined and eventually closed down. That will remove the presence of the truth of the Church, remove the mission that Christ gave us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to give drink to the thirsty, to heal the sick. That will remove us from the public square.
This is no accident, my sons and daughters in Christ. This is well-planned. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled.
You’ve heard, the Catholic Church has had one of the most successful adoption services in the country for years. And all of a sudden, in some states, and now in the District of Columbia, there’s a new human invention called same-sex “marriage.” And we are told that our adoption agencies have to supply babies for same-sex couples. This is abhorrent to Almighty God. And we cannot put children in jeopardy of losing their souls and their identity in homes that are now led by same-sex couples. And so our adoption agencies have had to close in those states because the states say that we are not practicing “equality.”
We have had one of the most successful operations to save women who are involved in sex trafficking, sex slavery. The federal government then tells us, “If you want to receive funding for your programs, you’re going to have to supply them [the women] with information for abortion, for birth control pills.” And when we refuse, they tell us, “We can’t help you anymore.” And once again, they try to remove us from the public square.
That’s the secularism that is now engulfing our country. That’s the secularism that you are going to be called to fight. Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage?
Let me tell you what will happen to you. As soon as you take a stand—if you take a stand, because some of you will not, some of you will—if you take a stand, you may not be hired by a firm; they find out that you’re pro-life. We’ve had someone in our class that has had that experience already. If you do become a part of a firm, if you are hired, you may never get promoted, you may never become a partner because you stood up for life or you spoke out against same-sex “marriage.” You may be fired from a position with a corporation because you’re telling them things that they don’t want to hear. You’re speaking about justice. And you’re speaking about the dignity of the human person before profit. And you just might not fit their profile. You may not get a raise. You may not have friends in the office. And some of you might decide you want to run for political office. Will you have the courage to say, “I’m pro-life.”? We have a congressman here now who’s had that courage and he’s been re-elected year after year. Do what’s right. Do what’s right.
But you will be tempted. You’ll be tempted to remain silent. You will be tempted to skirt around the issues. You will be tempted by fame. I want to be a famous lawyer. I want to be a judge. Power! I want to be a powerful person! I want money. But didn’t the devil tempt Jesus in exactly the same way? He’ll tempt you: “Change these stones into bread. Jump off the parapet! Kneel down and worship me!” You’ll be tempted. Like Jesus, though, you must have the courage to say, “Be gone, Satan! I will worship the Lord, my God, and Him alone!” That’s what we call “white martyrdom.”
But then there is “red martyrdom.” Red martyrdom means that you might be called to shed your blood for your faith. You say, “Oh Father, that couldn’t happen in America, could it? Now Oh Father Oh, is really going too far.” Let me tell you something:
Not even a hundred years ago, our closest neighbor to the south, Mexico, had a revolution. And godless secularists took over Mexico, a Catholic country. Churches were closed. Schools were closed. Priests, nuns couldn’t wear their habits in the street. Religion couldn’t be taught. But a movement began, the Cristeros movement, because you cannot suppress the truth; you cannot suppress the Word of God. One of the members of this movement was Father, now Blessed, Miguel Pro. (I gave you small cards with Blessed Miguel’s picture on those cards.) People were being rounded up because they didn’t obey the government. They taught religion. They worshiped. They prayed. And many of them were put before kangaroo courts —This is in Mexico, 1927! — and they were executed. Father Pro — he’s been one of my heroes for years — Father Pro knew that these people needed the ministrations of a priest before they died. And he came up with an ingenious plan. He got dressed up like a prison guard and snuck into prison numerous times. And he heard confessions and he gave the Eucharist before people met their fate at the firing squad. Eventually, Father Pro himself was captured, brought to prison, another kangaroo trial, and the next day, he was brought before a firing squad. Father Pro asked the guards a favor: could he pray before he died? Father Pro knelt down and prayed. Then he stretched out his arms, and he shouted the motto of the Cristeros movement, “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
I gave you, attached to that card of Miguel Pro, a small crucifix. Put it in your pocket. And when the world challenges you, when the devil comes after you with all of his enticements, reach into your pocket, take out that crucifix, hold it in your hand, and recite those words, “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Cristo Rey.” And remember what Jesus said your reward would be: The world will hate you; the world will persecute you; the world will speak every calumny against you; rejoice and be glad, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Good bye. Good luck. God love you all.
Rev. Michael Orsi is a chaplain and research fellow in law and religion at the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida.
Watch the video of his homily at