Wanted in Peoria: A 'fearless army' that loves its enemies

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The flyer for the 2012 Catholic men's gathering in Peoria, Ill.

While loving and praying for their enemies, Christians must unite to uphold their principles in public life, Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky told Catholic men at an April 14 rally.

“We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation,” Bishop Jenky told over 500 men in his homily following a procession through downtown Peoria.

Organizers described the Saturday morning event as a “defense of faith, family, and the priesthood.” It began with priests hearing confessions at the Peoria riverfront, before a silent march to the Cathedral of St. Mary for Mass, which was followed by the Rosary.

During Mass, participants in the march heard Bishop Jenky explain the need to combine charity with boldness in their public witness.

“As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us,” he said, in remarks that touched on the federal contraception mandate and other threats to the Church. “But as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith.”

“The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction. In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work … we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Jenky's homily focused on the historical truth and spiritual impact of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, an event “every bit as real as his dying on the cross.”

Christ's resurrection, he said, “was the manifest proof of the invincible power of Almighty God.” And the authorities who had condemned Jesus, and later sought to silence his Apostles, “might as well have tried to turn back the tide, or hold back an avalanche.”

But Bishop Jenky noted that the Apostles, “according to the clear testimony of the Scriptures,” were once “rather ordinary men – like you and me.”

“Their faith hadn’t always been strong. They made mistakes. They committed sins. They were often afraid and confused.”

“But meeting the Risen Lord had changed everything about these first disciples, and knowing the Risen Lord should also change everything about us.”

Bishop Jenky recalled the courage of believers under persecution throughout Church history –  including the martyrs of the Roman Empire, as well as later periods like Germany's anti-Catholic 19th century“Kulturkampf.”

As he urged Catholic men to follow the martyrs and confessors of the faith, he assured them of Christ's victory over all forces of evil.

Because of this victory, he said, “the Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads … The Church survived Nazism and Communism.”

“And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry” – as well as “the calculated disdain of the President of the United States” and “his appointed bureaucrats in HHS.”

While Christ's ultimate triumph is assured, Bishop Jenky warned that believers must take action to secure their right to act in his name.

He stressed the danger of the federal Health and Human Services mandate that would require many Catholic institutions to cooperate in providing contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs.

“This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences,” Bishop Jenky said.

Otherwise, “by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries – only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down.”

“Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.”

As he called for Catholics' civil engagement, Bishop Jenky also emphasized the need to look beyond passing struggles.

Christ's faithful, he said, “have nothing to fear, but we have a world to win for him.”

“We have nothing to fear, for we have an eternal destiny in heaven. We have nothing to fear, though the earth may quake, kingdoms may rise and fall, demons may rage, but St. Michael the Archangel, and all the hosts of heaven, fight on our behalf.”

“No matter what happens in this passing moment, at the end of time and history, our God is God and Jesus is Lord, forever and ever.”

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