Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prayer, Penance and a Pledge

















I'm still aching over the words I read in The Broken Path, a book written by Judie Brown from the American Life League, about her concern that the Bishops in our Church don't do enough to defend life. Her views have certainly not been my experience where I see many examples of leaders in the Church who consistently and bravely stand up for life in every aspect on a daily basis. Just this past weekend I was greatly encouraged by the many events that were held and the words spoken in defense of life by the bishops, priests, deacons and other church leaders in Milwaukee and I hope to always hold that promising spirit within my heart; the spirit that all will be well, that we all do our best for one another and that the Catholic Church is a church in love with life. I am proud to share these few examples of the wonderful ways in which the Church in Milwaukee upholds the sanctity of life, knowing that this is just a small sample of all of the wonderful things that are done by the leaders of the Catholic Church throughout the world to defend, protect and nurture the sanctity of life.

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I had the opportunity to chaperone at the "Ignite" Youth Rally for Life in Milwaukee this past Friday. Over 700 beautiful and brave teens from throughout the state of Wisconsin gathered on a snowy evening to pray and witness to the sanctity of life. For many of those teens their time in Milwaukee was only a short visit before journeying on to the March for Life in Washington, DC. The evening included Mass with Archbishop Listecki and a talk by Vicki Thorn, the founder of the National Office for Post-abortive Reconcialiation and Healing and Project Rachel. Vicki's talk which received a standing ovation from the teens was followed by a Holy Hour led by Bishop Hying after which he powerfully spoke about his own personal experiences in the defense of life. He shared one of his favorite gospel passages about St. Peter stepping out of the boat and compared it to his own life and said:

"In 1989 after I had only been ordained to the priesthood for a year and half I had seen a great many men and women whose lives were shattered by abortion, a scourge that damaged families and scarred lives.

The Lord put it on my heart that I had to get out of the boat and do something about it. So along with five parishioners, I took a large crucifix and we processed to a nearby abortion mill; one of four in Milwaukee at the time. I was scared to death and didn't know what to expect. We watched women come out of the clinic. Some of them had only been there for a consultation appointment, but others were coming out after having had an abortion. Those that had just aborted their babies were carrying little brown bags and they looked dazed with dead eyes. I realized that with each abortion it was two lives that were lost-that of the baby and of the mother.

Hatred was poured upon us at that clinic and many people were arrested. I always thought "I can't get arrested, I have a wedding at 2 O'clock!"

One day I went inside the clinic and put green scapulars inside the furniture. The clinic closed shortly after that(not because of the scapulars)and then something beautiful happened. The clinic was made into a pediatric medical clinic that healed lives instead of taking them away.

In the 1990's I prayed that God would raise up a vast army to defend life and here you all are!You are not the Church of the future, you are the Church of the now. You are meant to do something beautiful that no one else can. Fall in love with God. When you do, you won't count the cost because there are no limits to love. When a man and woman are in love they don't say "I already kissed you five times this week, I'm not going to kiss you anymore." And God doesn't say "I already made the sun shine long enough, I'm tired of that."

When you fall in love with God you will step out of the boat and defend life again and again without growing tired and here you are doing just that."

And his words were met with a roar of applause and a standing ovation and I pray that each of those teenagers that were on their way to Washington DC carried his words in their heart and vowed then and there to step out of the boat and swim into the deep wherever and however they were needed to bring God's love to the world.

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In the Sunday, January 22nd bulletin at my parish, St. Matthias, Fr. Dave Cooper wrote:

"The weekend marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the United States. Our Bishops have asked us to offer thanks for the gift of human life and to pray that all people would protect human life from the time of conception to the moment of death with dignity. Catholics have always been and continue to be pro-life; and that must be more than pro-birth. We want every child conceived to have the opportunity for life as we do. But we also want to protect human life from the ravages of war; from poverty and the lack of education, healthcare, food, employment, and everything considered necessary by our Catholic teaching for life with dignity. For those reasons we also oppose euthanasia and the death penalty."

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On Sunday evening my parish was one of ninety parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that held Holy Hours for Life led by the deacons of the Archdiocese. I was deeply moved to have the opportunity to silently kneel in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord with fellow parishioners and listen as Deacon Dave Sommers spoke profoundly using American Sign Language about the value of all human life, sharing his personal experience of the great joy he felt when his first daughter was born.

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Our Monday morning daily Mass became a Mass for the Sanctity of Human Life led by our Associate Pastor, Fr. Paul, who lovingly spoke about the gift we have in following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in valuing both our Catholic faith and the gift of life.

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Finally, on Monday night in honor of the National Day of Prayer and Penance, the seminarians from St. Francis de Sales Seminary led a rosary for life prior to a Respect Life Liturgy led by Archbishop Listecki. Although the beautiful St. Jerome Parish where the Mass was held is on the outskirts of the diocese and was a 45 minute drive from my home, all of my children were willing to join me in this important prayer and when we arrived at the church we found it to be packed with others from the Archdiocese who felt an important call to attend this Mass and pray for the sanctity of life.

In his homily and in his closing remarks Archbishop Listecki spoke about how abortion is the social justice issue, for without life nothing else matters and he spoke about how he had always been involved in the pro-life movement since his days as a transitional deacon. He said, "You have my pledge to continue to lead the Archdiocese in pro-life efforts." And before everyone left to view the many pro-life displays and share ideas with others in the pro-life movement, Lydia LoCoco, who is the director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation, summed up the weekend events and the final evening with these words: "You matter. Prayer matters. This Mass matters." I couldn't agree more. I am so grateful to be a part of a Church and an Archdiocese that puts the sanctity of life first and foremost, and has done and will continue to do everything it possibly can to protect and care for all of human life from conception to natural death.

I encourage you to visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website to view Bishop Hying's uplifting video where he offers suggestions on how you can help the pro-life efforts of the Church, read Lydia LoCoco's blog "Feed the Flames" about how the youth of today are involved in the pro-life movement and Archbishop Listecki's Living Our Faith reflection on Roe v. Wade.

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