Praying for the faithful in Hong Kong

Homily for the Holy Hour for Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen and Jimmy Lai
St. Anne of the Sunset, April 3, 2023


Thank you for being here tonight as we come together to pray for the people of Hong Kong. It is important we not lose sight of the suffering of our brothers and sisters there, especially for us Catholics in a part of the world that is so prominent in terms of its Chinese population. I feel that we have a special responsibility to pray to keep this intention in people’s consciousness, which is why I called for this evening of prayer together. We have special responsibility as Catholics here in San Francisco.  

Solidarity in prayer 

It might feel frustrating, it does for me, that we can’t be there by their sides. We can’t advocate for them before government authorities. We cannot join a movement for freedom. But we can be spiritually close. We can assure them of our love, our prayers, and our support. We can do this in our prayers and other gestures of solidarity.

The human spirit and the struggle for freedom 

It really is part of the age-old struggle for freedom. The human spirit desires freedom and will not rest until freedom is attained. But freedom always has to be fought for. Freedom requires self-discipline. Freedom requires the law.  

The purpose of the law is not to stamp down that freedom—to limit it—but precisely to define it and define the contours so that freedom can be lived fruitfully and in a way that brings about prosperity—not just in the economic sense. For us as Catholics, prosperity means much more than that. It means the individual flourishing, becoming all that God created us to be, using the gifts and talents God gives to us for our own development and to contribute to the common good of society. Law is abused when it is used to limit freedom, to stamp it out.  

Without law, there is also a loss of freedom. Perhaps we are seeing a countermovement in our own society here in the United States. If there is no law, then it becomes the rule of the most powerful, who likewise exert power and control over others.  

But the human spirit always desires freedom. At times, God calls his servants to give heroic witness to that, to live, in a heroic way—this last beatitude of being insulted and persecuted and being slandered for His name. We are called to stand strong for our Lord whenever we are faced with temptations or pressures to capitulate.  


Let us take inspiration from those who do this in a heroic way, such as our dear brothers Cardinal Zen and Jimmy Lai and so many others in Hong Kong struggling for freedom. Let us take inspiration from them, so that we too might exercise the self-discipline needed to be truly free. May we use the freedom God gives us for love to become the person God has created us to be.