by Deirdre A. McQuade
March 23, 2007
Lent starts with a sobering reminder of our mortality: "You are dust...and to dust you shall return." Yet the forty days of Lent prepare us for the fifty-day season of Easter celebrating the gift of abundant life. Much more than a single day of sweets, bunnies and colored eggs, this season informs everything Christians do to build the culture of life.
As Pope John Paul II put it poetically while he was still a cardinal: "Each spring the earth and water say: is the necessity of life not deeper than that of dying?" ("Easter Vigil, 1966 – VI: Ritual"). He's speaking not merely of the earthly renewal brought about by rain and melting snow, but of spiritual renewal in the baptismal waters of the Easter Vigil. Its fire and water rituals point to – and draw us more deeply into – the reality that life in Christ is more powerful than death.
While we know theologically that "the victory is already won," it can be tempting to despair when it seems our work is making little headway. In frustration, we may drift away from prayer, either giving up or relying on our own strength to defend innocent life.
But we know that pro-life efforts are already making a noticeable difference at national and local levels. American attitudes have shifted in recent years away from unqualified support of so-called "reproductive rights" as protected under Roe v. Wade. The pro-life movement is strong and spans several generations, with a new wave of young adults and teens committed to defending life in the public and private sphere.
The rate and number of abortions in the United States continue to decline, most notably among teens. Recent studies show that state laws regulating abortion, such as parental involvement laws and public funding restrictions, reduce abortion rates in the states that enact them.
Every day, pregnancy resource centers care for women to help them make life-affirming choices for themselves and their families. Countless precious lives have been saved as their parents have embraced their God-given dignity in empowering ways.
Through Project Rachel, the Church reaches out to women and men hurt by abortion. For them, the healing power of the risen Christ is nothing short of life-transforming. Thanks to internet and radio ad campaigns, as well as good homilies and support at the parish level, more and more broken women and men are embracing the message that spiritual and emotional healing are possible.
Finally, the false promises of the sexual revolution are painfully coming to light, and a new grassroots movement celebrating the true dignity of women is emerging in our country.
John Paul II's poem continues: "Water speaks more of endurance than of passing." Every time we bless ourselves with holy water throughout the year, let us remind ourselves of the enduring power of baptism. Let us embrace the hope of the resurrection, and be renewed to serve the culture of life.
Deirdre A. McQuade is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.