The Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, who run Aquinas College in Nashville, have put out a call to the faithful to combat the HHS mandate by praying and fasting for nine days from Feb. 11 until Feb. 19, to ask Our Lady to intercede on behalf of religious liberty.
“While faced with multiple threats to religious liberty, the most immediate concern is a January 20, 2012 ruling by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made in conjunction with the recently approved healthcare law,” the sisters write on their website.
“In identifying the ‘preventive services’ that must be covered in most health insurance plans, this HHS mandate specifies ‘all FDA approved forms of contraception,’ including sterilization and some abortifacients. Although the ruling does allow an exemption for certain religious organizations, the exemption is so narrow that most religious institutions — including most Catholic schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and charitable agencies — do not meet the criteria.”
In addition to the serious concerns of the Church hierarchy and the faithful in the U.S., the sisters also note that the Holy Father, in a recent address to U.S. bishops, said that Catholics in the United States face “grave threats to the Church’s public witness” and “attempts to limit the most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
He was responding to the American bishops’ concerns about “concerted efforts…to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices” and the “tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship.” Pope Benedict stressed that it is imperative that “the entire Catholic community in the United States” recognize and counter these threats.
“Sharing the very serious concerns expressed by Pope Benedict XVI and by our U.S. bishops in recent weeks, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia will set aside nine days of prayer and fasting during the month of February, asking Our Lady to intercede for our country.”
The sisters are inviting the faithful to join them in this novena to ask Mary, Patroness of the United States of America, to implore God’s loving mercy on us at this critical time in our nation’s history. The novena begins on Feb. 11 and will end on Feb. 19, 2012.
The following prayer should be prayed on each of those nine days:
Act of Consecration of the United States to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Most Holy Trinity: Our Father in heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as your spouse; God the Son, who chose Mary as your Mother; in union with Mary, we adore your majesty and acknowledge your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.
Most Holy Trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom, which has been its heritage. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our Mother, have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, sinners—on all who are in need.
Mary, Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, Patroness of our land, we praise you and honor you and give our country and ourselves to your sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by the sword of sorrow prophesied by Simeon, save us from degeneration, disaster and war. Protect us from all harm. O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, you who bore the sufferings of your Son in the depths of your heart, be our advocate. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the will of your divine Son, we may live and die pleasing to God. Amen.
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