By Susan E. Wills
January 30, 2009
If ever there were a time for fervent prayer for an end to legal abortion and conversion of hearts, this is it!
For the first time since 1994, all branches of the federal government are firmly controlled by abortion supporters. The abortion industry is pushing hard to make its anti-child agenda come true. They want free contraception and free abortion for everyone through insurance and taxpayer funding, abortion available wherever medical procedures are done, with no regulations (like informed consent or parental involvement) and no rights of conscience for healthcare professionals who object to killing innocent children.
We cannot hope to defeat this agenda on our own, so we must intensify our private and communal prayer.
Since 2002, the bishops of the United States have called for the Roe v. Wade anniversary to be observed as a "particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life."
Catholics have responded: In the Archdiocese of Boston, for example, 188 parishes conducted Holy Hours for Life on January 22!
Countless Masses across the country were offered for the intention "that our new president will govern wisely and work to protect the lives and dignity of all human beings, including those not yet born."
Washington, D.C. was transformed for 24 hours from a seat of partisanship and power politics to a living font of prayer.
Observances at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception began with an Afternoon of Prayerful Remembrance & Intercession for all those affected by abortion. The deeply moving program of first-person testimonies, homily reflections on God's mercy, Adoration, and Mass was developed by the Sisters of Life and Lumina, a post-abortion ministry.
Although the National Shrine is the largest Catholic church in the U.S., pilgrims gathering for the January 21st Vigil Mass for Life have long exceeded its seating (and standing!) capacity, spilling into side chapels, stairwells, and lower level. Two "overflow" Masses were held this year on nearby campuses to accommodate an additional 1,000 pilgrims. The sanctuary itself was proportionately crowded. Over 40 bishops, more than 400 priests, and scores of deacons assisted the principal celebrant, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. About 350 seminarians joined them in the sanctuary.
Throughout the night, pilgrims continued prayer in the Basilica's Crypt Church – the National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer (Byzantine Rite), Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Holy Hours hosted by seminarians from various dioceses and orders.
By 7:00 AM, the Great Upper Church was again packed to overflowing with young Catholics who'd just arrived in Washington after spending the night (and longer) on buses. Arlington, Virginia Bishop Paul Loverde's eloquent homily exhorted them to be the generation that brings about the end of abortion in America.
Across town, the 20,000-seat Verizon Center reached maximum capacity early in the morning. Six satellite locations in downtown churches accommodated the overflow. The Verizon Center rally and Mass featured a special blessing this year. Between the Christian rock bands, rosary, testimonies, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, delivered an apostolic blessing and words of gratitude and encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI.
Susan Wills is Assistant Director for Education and Outreach, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-life Activities. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities.