Archive for the ‘Pro-Life’ Category

40 Days for Life – What You Can Do

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The Scripture readings for this week remind us of the value of life. Psalm 54 emphasizes “The Lord upholds my life.” God is the author and provider of life. Without God, our heart would never pulse a single beat nor would we ever take a single breath. He alone has the right to choose when we come into this world and when we move on to the next world. That is why we must respect and defend life from conception until natural death.

In the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37), Jesus teaches, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Each child is a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception. Each child has a God-given right to live.

It is fitting that we have these readings to reflect on as this year’s fall 40 Days for Life campaign begins this week. Running from September 26th until November 4th, 40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil and 40 days of community outreach.

What can you do to help this effort? This fall, there are 316 individual campaigns taking place. To find one near you, please visit the 40 Days for Life website at http://www.40daysforlife.com. If you are interested, you can connect with your local campaign in order to take part in peaceful vigils and work to bear pro-life witness in your community.

Not all of us are able to become actively involved in the vigils, but two things each one of us can do to help this effort are to fast and pray. I personally tend to think of this campaign as a second Lent. In this case, instead of being focused on our own spiritual growth and repentance for sin, it is focused on offering up our sacrifice and prayers for a larger cause. We join our prayers and sacrifices with others in order to help bring about important change in our world.

It can be impossible to know the difference our prayers and efforts make in the world, but there have been tangible results from past 40 Days for Life campaigns. There have been ten campaigns since the movement began in 2007. During that time, 5,928 lives that have been spared from abortion (and those are just the ones we know about), 69 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry and 24 abortion facilities have completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns.

Being pro-life matters. Won’t you please consider how you can join with others during these 40 Days for Life in prayer, fasting, and vigil to help change hearts and save lives?

Movie Review: October Baby

Friday, April 13th, 2012

October Baby opened in my corner of the world today and I was so happy to have the opportunity to go see it with my friends. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that the message would be good and that is what I wanted to support. I’ve seen Fireproof and Bella, both of which were good movies with a good message, but I can’t say that I loved either of those. I was happy to promote them and support them because we need more of these types of movies in the world, but they were lacking a bit in the cinematic excellence department (Bella was better than Fireproof.) I had the feeling this movie would be more of the same.

I am thrilled to report that October Baby is different. This is a good movie. It has a compelling story line and is entertaining while sharing its message of forgiveness. As I am sure most of you are aware by now, it tells the story of Hannah Lawson, who survived a botched abortion attempt. At age nineteen, she is told the truth, and sets out to find her birth mother. It is a classic story of a heroine going on a journey to find herself. I laughed. I cried. It even has a sweet romance, based on love and friendship, rather than lust. It has a PG13 rating due to the subject matter, but it is definitely a great movie for teens and up.

The only small criticism I have is that there is a part in the movie when Hannah’s friend Jason tells Dr. Lawson (Hannah’s adoptive father) that “She is not your daughter.” On behalf of adoptive parents everywhere, the doctor’s response should have been, “I am her father in every way that matters.” For whatever reason, the writers have him ignore the comment.

Overall, however, this is an enjoyable, powerful movie. If it is playing in an area near you, please go see it. It matters how we spend our entertainment dollars and we need to support movies like this.

Is Making Sacrifices “Stupid?”

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I’m really not one to talk about voluntary sacrifices I make – the whole “do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” thing. It’s something between me and God. But, I happened to casually mention to a friend that I was basically doing another Lent for 40 Days for Life, which began September 28th and runs through November 6th. The response? “Wow! That’s really stupid.”

It was not that this individual thought that the pro-life movement was stupid . No, this person is staunchly pro-life. Rather, it was the idea that I thought that my giving up something would in any way help the cause.

At first, I was deeply offended. As I thought more about it, however, I realized that most people probably share my friend’s opinion and it was worth giving some time (and a column!) to. Do our sacrifices actually matter or I am simply denying myself needlessly? If they do matter, how does it work?

Obviously, this kind of sacrifice is different than the Lenten version, which is done in a spirit of mortification and penance – to acknowledge and make reparation for one’s own sinfulness and attachment to worldly goods and to focus more on God and prayer. This type of sacrifice isn’t being offered up for oneself, but rather for another.

The answer lies in the Catholic belief in the Communion of Saints. We profess this every week when we say the Nicene Creed at Mass: “We believe in the Communion of Saints,” but what does that actually mean? It means that all of us – those in heaven, those in purgatory, and those of us struggling here on earth are all interconnected.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:
The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God’s grace is not alone. “The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.”

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.

In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin. (1474-1475)

Therefore, the good acts of one can indeed help someone else. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized this idea in his Lenten message for 2009. He stated that “by freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger.” In the case of “Forty Days for Life,” those participating are offering sacrifices and prayers to help unborn children and their mothers, all of whom are most certainly part of the Communion of Saints.

A belief in the value of sacrifice to help another person takes faith. Like many other situations, we may never see the fruit of our actions. People may indeed think that we are being dumb and denying ourselves needlessly. We trust in God and in his mercy and humbly offer our small gifts of self-denial. In the end, God’s opinion is the only one that truly matters.

A Parenting Question

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Usually, I use this column space to reflect on scripture or other spiritual reading. Other times, I share some hard earned wisdom culled from this school of life. Today, I am using it to ask for help from those of you farther on the parenting journey than I. How do you raise your children with a firm understanding that premarital sex is seriously wrong while remaining staunchly pro-life?

The national percentage of out-of-wedlock births is currently about 40%. In the city where I live, that rate is much higher. My children are growing up in a world where having children outside of marriage is considered normal. I try to impress upon them that this is not the way it should be.

At the same time, I am staunchly pro-life. I am thankful that these mothers chose to have these babies. I know that they could have made a different decision. Each child is a gift from God. A child born as a result of premarital sex is an instance of God bringing something good out of something wrong. Recently, we have faced this situation in my own family. My grandniece was recently born to my nephew and his girlfriend. The baby is beautiful and we love her. I still want my children to wait until they are married to have sex.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I knew that if I was ever unmarried and pregnant, I shouldn’t bother coming home. While fear of my parents wasn’t the only reason I waited to have sex, it was certainly part of the equation. Yet, I know the strength of emotions and hormones and that things very easily could have been different. I’d like to think that if I ever did find myself pregnant, I would have had the strength to carry the baby and not resort to abortion, but, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have been very scared.

I don’t want my children to feel that way. I don’t want them to feel that if they have committed a sexual sin and are facing the consequences of that, that they are unwelcome or that I won’t love them anymore. I don’t want them ever to feel that abortion is the appropriate answer to that situation.

What is the answer to this? I can preach about self-respect and respect for members of the opposite sex. I can stress that premarital sex is a mortal sin and a one-way ticket to hell if they don’t have the opportunity to go to confession before they die (this was a fairly strong motivator for me). I can emphasize that having a child out of wedlock will dramatically alter the course of their lives – that they will be facing a responsibility that they are not ready for. And, they may still find themselves in a situation where they give in to their desires and face an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ve often heard the argument that you shouldn’t tell your children, “If you are going to have sex, I want you to protect yourself by using a condom,” because you are giving them permission to have sex. You are supposed to hold up the high standard and trust that your children can live up to that. Is saying, “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you can come to us without fear,” the same thing? Do I simply tell them, “No matter what you do in life or what circumstances you find yourself, we will always love you?”

So, I turn to you, and ask you to share your wisdom. How have you walked this line of taking a strong stance against having sex before marriage while being pro-life and supporting those who have children out-of-wedlock?

Book Recommendation: “Unplanned”

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line
by Abby Johnson is a book currently getting a great deal of attention, and with good reason. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it, so I am sharing the official press release below along with links on where it can be purchased.

Abby Johnson was sitting at her desk when a co-worker in the health clinic asked for some help with a patient. “I could not have imagined,” Johnson writes in “UnPlanned,” “how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life.”

Johnson ran that clinic – a Planned Parenthood® facility in Bryan, Texas. She spent those ten minutes assisting with an ultrasound-guided abortion. “Oh, dear God,” she writes, “what had I done?”

In “UnPlanned,” Johnson tells the dramatic story of the journey that unfolded as a result of that fateful day in September 2009 – how she literally “crossed the fence” from Planned Parenthood® leader to an advocate fighting for women in crisis – and the lives of their unborn babies. Ignatius Press will release an edition of “UnPlanned” for the Catholic market on Jan. 11, 2011.

“Stories like (Abby’s) have a purpose,” says Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, and the Pastoral Director and Chairman of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries. “If we can better understand why someone has an abortion or how someone gets into the abortion industry and then how she comes out, we can come to understand the key to how our entire society can begin to emerge from the darkness of
abortion.

“Abby is not the first; she will not be the last,” Fr. Pavone continues. “She is part of a great ‘cloud of witnesses.’ I thank her for her courage, as I do to all who share their painful stories.”

Johnson shares that story in detail that is intimate and, as a result, unnerving. “UnPlanned” is not an easy book to read; it’s also not an easy book to put down. She realizes both are true.

“Here’s my question for you,” she writes in “A Note from Abby Johnson,” which immediately precedes Chapter 1: “…are you ready to look through the (pro-life/pro-choice) fence and see goodness, compassion, generosity and self-sacrifice on the other side?

“Did you just feel yourself squirm? If so, welcome to my journey.”

Planned Parenthood® took Johnson to court in an attempt to keep a lid on her story. Johnson won. “UnPlanned” is the result.

Ignatius Press is currently offering 35% off on their special edition with added content. http://www.ignatius.com/promotions/unplanned/

The Mass Market Edition is available through Amazon: Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line

Discover a Modern Day Hero of Divine Love

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Most of the saints we learn about and love lived a long time ago. As much as we can study their lives and, when available, read their writings, it can be difficult to imagine them as living, breathing human beings who struggled with life. That is one reason why it is so amazing to watch “St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Day Hero of Divine Love,” a new DVD about a saint who lived in our own time. The DVD is a visual delight, featuring photos and home movies of St. Gianna, who lived from 1922 to 1962. One gets to see her getting married and playing with her children and living out her career as a doctor. Viewers see her laughing and smiling and loving life. This is a real woman. She is someone like us. Sadly, one also has the opportunity to get a glimpse of the outpouring of mourners at her funeral. She was truly loved in her community and admired for her sanctity.

Here we get to know a woman like so many of us who struggled to balance work and family. She was highly intelligent, excelling in her studies. She also loved music and art and being in the mountains. She loved her family above all else, but saw her career as a physician as a calling from God. Not only did she run her own practice, she was an active volunteer and sought to bring medical care to those who needed it, especially mothers and children. She would tell other doctors that “when you have finished your earthly profession, if you have done this well, you will enjoy divine life ‘because I was sick and you healed me.’”

St. Gianna was raised in a Christ-centered family and sought to raise her children the same way. Her life was one of service and was deeply rooted in prayer. She attended daily Mass as often as possible and prayed her rosary daily. She was always ready to encourage others in their relationship with God. She was a woman who viewed life as a gift from God and trusted in the power of prayer. Totally pro-life, her ultimate sacrifice was to give birth to her last child, even though she was advised against it and knew it might result in her own death. After giving birth, she bravely bore her final suffering with grace and prayer. She died on April 28, 1962 at the age of 39. Beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2004, Pope John Paul II held St. Gianna up as a role model for mothers, physicians, and the pro-life cause.

Watching “St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Day Hero of Divine Love” is an opportunity to discover a wonderful woman devoted to God who can serve as a model for all of us struggling with life as mothers.

To order this DVD produced by Catholic Action for Faith and Family, please visit www.stgiannaphysicians.org.

Building a Culture of Life One Heart at a Time

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

The mission statement of the Sisters of Life states that they are “a contemplative/active religious community dedicated to protecting and advancing a sense of the sacredness of all human life — beginning with the infant in the womb and extending to all those vulnerable to the threat of euthanasia.” Founded by John Cardinal O’Connor in 1991, the sisters begin with prayer and then go out into the world with outreach to create a culture of life one person and one encounter at a time.

Since their founding, the Sisters of Life have been dedicated to providing practical assistance and spiritual and emotional support to pregnant women in crisis. Many of these women have had abortions in the past and want to give their unborn child life but are unsure of how to cope and move forward. The sisters state that “we strive to bring His peace, the gift of hope and a ‘beginning joy’ to each of these women God sends our way, even amidst what the women themselves readily admit are ‘non-ideal circumstances.’ We have witnessed the truth that ‘life is always a good’ as we have watched it slowly but surely blossom forth in so many of these courageous women with a heart faithful to the call to love.”

At the Holy Respite, located in the heart of Manhattan, New York, pregnant women “most vulnerable to the pressure of abortion,” whether Catholic or not, are invited to come and stay. A woman is welcome not only through the birth of her child, but up to six months after so that she may get back on her feet and begin to create a life for herself and her child.

The Sisters also help those who are suffering from the pain of abortion. The “Entering Canaan” program takes its name from the Exodus experience of the Jewish people crossing the desert to reach the Promised Land. This program takes women “on a Sacramental journey into the true Promised Land of the Heart of Jesus.” Each retreat is directed by women who experienced both the pain of abortion and the healing found in Christ. Retreats are also offered for men who are experiencing pain as a result of an abortion.

Education is yet another mission of the Sisters of Life. Thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus, Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stamford, Connecticut became a reality. “The retreat house hosts Evenings of Recollection, educational seminars on life issues and retreats for everyone (themes include Theology of the Body, Young Adult Retreats, Post-Abortion Healing, and retreats on the Dignity and Vocation of Women). “ It is “a spiritual home for the pro-life community.” The Sisters also staff the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, supporting marriages and families.

A more recent addition to the Sisters’ outreach has been the creation of an organized group of laity known as Co-workers. These volunteers work out of local or parish communities to provide help to women in need. Some open their homes to pregnant women; others work to help women find resources in their local communities. Men involved as co-workers help move furniture or build cribs or mentor fathers. Health professionals, college contacts, business professionals, counselors, and lawyers are all offering their talents to this effort.

For more information on any of the programs offered by the Sisters of Life, please visit their website at www.sistersoflife.org .