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I'd Like to Say: Religious Freedom Is at Stake View Comments
By Helen Alvare

NEARLY EVERY WEEK there’s media hype about something the government has done. Supporters and critics insist that the latest law, judicial decision, or executive action will change the world as we know it. Yet we wake the next morning to discover the world looks much the same.

A problem with this “Chicken Little cycle” is that when something momentous does occur, it’s more easily dismissed, even when it shouldn’t be. This includes current threats to religious freedom by federal and state governments. In their 2012 statement on religious liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, the U.S. bishops write: “We address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.”

This is an alarming, but undoubtedly necessary, call to action. To the degree that government marginalizes or silences religious voices and institutions, we’ll find ourselves living in a very different society. Religious teachings and institutions will be less visible and influential. There will be more government intrusion into the internal affairs of religious institutions. The opinion that religion has nothing to offer that hasn’t already been said
by science will prevail. In particular, Christian ideas about human sexuality, marriage, family, and sexual differences will increasingly be viewed as “discrimination” or “human rights violations.”

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Helen Alvaré is an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law. A consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, she recently received the 2012 Notre Dame EvangeliumVitae Medal.

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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 
did.

 
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