The Wonder of Life

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington delivers the keynote address before a panel discussion titled “Lives Worthy of Respect” held at Georgetown University in Washington on Oct. 2. The event was held to kick off the month of October as Respect Life Month.

Read Cardinal Wuerl’s prepared remarks for the Lives Worthy of Respect Panel Discussion at Georgetown University on October 2, 2017.

Some years ago, I visited a mother who had given birth to sextuplets – six tiny bundles of life. As I gave a blessing to them, with pride in her voice and joy in her eyes, she described each child’s own identifiable personality even though they were so young and tiny that I could practically hold each of them in the palm of my hand.

How precious were each of those infants, as all babies are, not simply upon their birth, but beginning with their conception in the womb, made in the image of God and thus demanding of respect and protection from that very first moment.

But this is not always the message of our society. It certainly is not what is being heard by at least two generations of our fellow citizens.

Many years ago, I attended a meeting of representatives of civil government, police, education, philanthropy, social services, law enforcement, judiciary and faith communities. The topic was how to reduce youth crime and the violence associated with it.

At one point, a political leader addressed a question to one of the young people described as “at risk” who were already in detention or correction facilities. He asked a fourteen year old young man why at his young age he felt so comfortable with being violent to other people? I shall always remember the young man’s reply, “How come you get to draw the line?”

When the politician interjected, “What do you mean?” the young man continued, “How come you get to draw the line? You say it is all right for anybody to kill someone until they are born. How come you get to draw the line?” Another version of that question is: “Who put you in charge of who lives and dies?”

Today many accept the premise – advanced in the media, public schools and even civil law – that the value of human life is relative, and that people have the power to choose which lives are worth living and which are not.

What is the fruit of this culture’s “choice” mentality? Human life is increasingly held cheap as violence stalks our communities, suicide is on the increase nationwide, and in some states, instead of saving lives, there are physicians who help to end lives. The elderly and disabled, in addition to the unborn, are especially vulnerable in this climate.

Once you accept the thesis that it is all right to kill human life before it is born, or as it nears its end, or for some other reason, at almost any time you accept two premises: that we, human beings, have the ultimate say over all life and who gets to live, and that such a decision is ultimately arbitrary.

What we are witnessing today is a concerted effort to convince people that the sick and dying constitute a burden to their families and society, and therefore to regard those lives as not worth living. Such a view is of course antagonistic to the God-given dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.

At this point we need to examine the starting point of two diverse views of life that lead to these startlingly diverse conclusions about taking human life.

One view that for the most part was long recognized as the context for any life/death decisions saw all life as a gift from God. In this understanding, we spoke of “procreation.” Life was not something we could maintain indefinitely. At some point, all science, all medicine fails and life comes, in the natural course of events, to its natural end. So, too, with its beginning. Human life came to be through the marital act. It is not produced on a conveyor belt or in a technician’s lab. In this worldview, a child was not killed or “exposed to the elements” at birth if he or she demonstrated some defect.

What was accepted – grounded in God’s Revelation found in the Book of Genesis – was that God’s glory is manifest in all creation. Thus, children and adults with a wide range of capabilities and special needs are welcomed as God’s creation. Our annual White Mass at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral recognizes, as its foundational “given,” the Revelation that God, not we, determine the worth of each human life. Life. Life, as all creation, in its rich diversity is God’s gift.

Another view is far more directed by arbitrary decisions. The determination about the worth, value and quality of human life is made according to criteria established as politically correct and acceptable to a majority of voters. For example, in ancient Sparta, the martial Greek city-state, a male child deemed unfit for growth and training for military service was simply disposed of. Today an unborn child can be killed – aborted – because it is the “wrong” sex, or might possibly be less than what someone else determines as perfect.

The choice offered by assisted suicide, for example, is presented as kindness to avoid suffering and possible pain which many times is a euphemism for inconvenience for caregivers. It is a false compassion lacking true care and concern for the dying, as Pope Francis has noted. Instead of regarding suffering people as disposable and eliminating them, as one view asserts, we should accompany them with love and support them with access to better palliative care.

An element in our understanding of the value of human life is the cross. Catholic health care, in all its many manifestations, is an effort to extend the healing ministry of Christ. What we bring, however, is not merely the science of medicine and medical technology today, however good these realities are. We also bring an understanding of the need as members of the community of faith, to be with one another, support one another, particularly in the face of prolonged or even terminal illnesses.

These human realities we are invited to see as reflections of the cross. Jesus asks each of us to take up our cross and follow Him. It is our faith conviction that redemption came through the One on the cross. For this reason, we are asked to see in the cross we bear the signs of salvation and redemption. Clearly, the perspective is a horizon far beyond the limits of this natural life. It is one that opens up on to the glory of eternity.

When asked what does the Church bring to the world of technology, political correctness and satisfied self-assurance, our response must be that we bring what we have always brought. We bring an invitation to faith, a respect for God’s creation and His created plan. We offer an introduction to the Gospel and its values. Most importantly, we present the opportunity for an encounter with Christ and his compassion and mercy.

A beautiful example of this truly merciful response to illness and suffering was offered by Saint Marianne Cope, whose feast day we celebrate today. Following Saint Father Damien of Molokai, she embraced and provided loving care and hope to the wretched patients who had previously been given only despair by society when they were banished to the Hawaiian leper colony on Molokai.

 When we speak of respect for human life, it is easy for us to get caught up in abstractions, and our response can seem somewhat theoretical. But our obligations are quite concrete. Lives depend on us.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a maternity hospital in Peru that was supported and sustained by the Church in this country. It operated in an impoverished area with a large, struggling population of poor and needy people.

One of my greatest joys is when young parents give me their newborn baby to hold, so I was delighted when the sisters running the maternity ward invited me to hold one of the children under their care. As I gingerly picked up a one-day-old infant, the baby latched onto my finger with all his strength and held tight.

That infant is a parable to me – a representative of countless unborn children reaching out to hold onto you and me, reaching out with all their strength. In their struggle to find a place, a home, a life in this world, the most vulnerable among us depend on us to work for a culture of life.

It is said that silence and ignorance are allies of evil and this is certainly true with respect to abortion. So ingrained and commonplace is the mentality and practice in our society that many have become inured and numb to the violence. Moreover, so staggering and beyond comprehension are the nearly 60 million innocent unborn children taken in abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that they risk becoming just numbers. However, these are not mere statistics on the page. We are talking about real human lives and the loss of each one is an alarming tragedy.

What is even more alarming is the call of some pro-abortion organizations “to celebrate abortion.” Just as we would celebrate a new born child – what we used to refer to as “a blessed event.”

This is why we cannot be silent. This is why we dare not turn our attention away. We pray and march so that these innocents will have someone who will speak for them. We labor in order that unborn children will not be ignored, forgotten, invisible to people’s consciences, to remind the nation that behind the word “abortion” and euphemisms like “choice” and “reproductive health” are real human beings.

We need to ask those who say they are in favor of “choice” to complete the sentence.  Choice of what? Cigarettes in public restaurants, funding for the school for your kids? The list can go on and on!

Our witness must be the voice that awakens our society to the emptiness of telling women that abortion is the answer to their problems. We must work for the right to life and bring hope and healing to those women and men who are or have been in crisis situations. May God give us all the determination to build a culture of life, defending the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.

During Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, one of the most striking images was how the Holy Father’s love radiated whether he was greeting a head of state or a homeless person. His gestures, his words, his actions in every encounter proclaimed the truth that every life is worth living. As a gift from God, every human life from conception to death is sacred. It is this fundamental truth the Pope so convincingly communicates.

October is Respect Life month. During this time, in a special way, people are invited to reflect on the ways they can give witness to the dignity of every human life. “In many places, quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to ‘well-being,’ to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence – interpersonal, spiritual and religious,” observes Pope Francis. “In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality.’ There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred.” (Address of November 15, 2014).

The Church has always proclaimed the dignity of each human person. In our day when we hear so much about renewing the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council, we must also remind ourselves of what it said as it stressed how human life must be honored and upheld, fostered and respect: “whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and willful self-destruction . . . all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).

Thus, there is great need now as much as ever for faithful disciples of the Lord and members of his Church to give ready witness to the dignity of human life at every stage, including our efforts to bring hope and healing to those who are or have been in crisis situations, leading to pain and despair.

For example, for more than 25 years the archdiocese’s Project Rachel Ministry has helped women and men heal spiritually and psychologically from the pain of abortion. Please take a minute to go here to learn more about this blessed work.

The archdiocese has also created a variety of #TransformFear resources that address the questions related to the end of human life due to illness, age or injury. With Pope Francis warning us of the “throwaway culture,” we must remember that human life is a gift from God – there is no such thing as a life not worth living. Our response as family members, as caregivers, and as a Church to those facing the end of life – with all their feelings of isolation, fear, and burdensomeness – is genuine compassion and reciprocal love, which seeks to provide comfort and hope in the face of fear and suffering.

One manifestation of support for life is found in what has become for decades an every year event, which welcomes new generations of participants.

Preceded by the morning Youth Rally and Mass for Life hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington, in the March for Life hundreds of thousands of voices are raised to announce the truth that every human life is sacred. What is so encouraging to me is the huge number of high school and college students who participate. While many of these young people are local, there are also many who have endured long bus rides from destinations all over the East Coast and Midwest, and wherever they are from, they are willing to stand outdoors for many hours in generally less than welcoming weather conditions.

Even more impressive, for many of them, their participation in pro-life advocacy does not begin and end with the Rally and March – it is a year-round commitment to human life, something that is part of the fabric of their lives.

Dear friends, what we bring to our culture, our society, our community today is not just the very significant call to respect all life. What we also offer people is hope – the Good News that God exists and our existence is not random or accidental. We are not at the mercy of arbitrary forces; chaos does not rule the universe. Rather, we exist because God brought us into being and breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7Jeremiah 1:5).

I want to conclude with one last story. Some years ago, when I was on pilgrimage to Lourdes, I watched as the Eucharistic procession wove its way through the huge crowds. At one point, a young woman in a wheelchair struggled to stand, bracing herself by holding on to the arms of the wheelchair. She strained to remain standing until the Blessed Sacrament had passed in front of her. Then, exhausted from the effort, she slumped back into her chair. Some things are worth standing for, even if it takes effort.

My brothers and sisters, let us always be prepared to stand for the gift of life. Let us be ready to stand for those who cannot yet or can no longer stand for their own life. Let us stand in the strength and gift of our own life in order that we can always be a witness to our message: That all life is sacred because it is a gift from God.


On a Sad Sidewalk, a Small Foretaste of Jesus’ Words, “You Will Weep … but Your Grief Will Become Joy”

Something about today’s Gospel (Friday of the 6th Week of Easter) reminds me of an incident on the front lines of the battle to end abortion.

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you
(John 16:20-23).

It was a mild spring day in front of the Planned “Parenthood” facility here in Washington, D.C. Twenty of us were gathered to pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet. The weather was fine, but as always the mood was heavy, knowing of the toll of life exacted at this facility and the outright confusion of those who think themselves righteous for advocating the death of innocent human beings.

Two sidewalk counselors were courageously at work, seeking a last-minute change of heart from the downcast women (often accompanied by boyfriends or parents) who entered. We supported the sidewalk counselors with our prayers.

Five escorts in orange vests tried to shield the entering clients from us who would shine the light of truth on what was really happening inside.

Keep praying, I thought, for indeed, some among our group were converts to the pro-life cause thanks to the prayers of others.

A low moment came when a few joyful “clinic” escorts shared the news among themselves that a certain woman emerging from the center had “successfully aborted.” Smiles among the escorts, a high five between two of them, and a gloating look over at us from another one brought Jesus’ words painfully alive:

You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices.

Yes, the hardest part of being on the front lines of the pro-life movement is hearing an abortion called a success and seeing some even joyfully announcing victory.

I gathered close to my fellow prayer warriors and encouraged them between the decades by quoting these words of Jesus’: You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices. Yet we should also remember that He went on to say, you will grieve, but your grief will become joy … [You] are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

It was not enough that we should grieve; we should also offer our sorrow for the ones who were now rejoicing. We must offer our grief for their conversion. For Jesus says,

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep (Luke 6:25).

Indeed, if they are not converted now, they will answer one day to God. Pray for conversion prior to judgement! It gave me the strength to go to each escort, look him or her in the eye, and say, “Think about it now. You know deep in your heart that this is wrong, that this is murder.” It was interesting to me that not a single one of them said anything in reply.

In the distance, I saw one of our sidewalk counselors urgently waving for me to come over. She had not been able to dissuade a certain young woman from entering, but her boyfriend had listened, taken it to heart, and was now asking for confession! He had tried to bring his girlfriend out to join him, but she refused. Now sorrowful and contrite, moved by the words of the sidewalk counselor and the signs our group held, he sought mercy. The counselor said to me, “He’s ready for you Father; he’s ready for mercy.”

Thank you, Jesus. We could not save everyone that day, but at least we saved one. Sorrow was turned to joy. I pray only, Lord, that our joy may one day be complete.

“Keep praying, witnessing, and working.” was all I heard.

On the Paradoxical Beauty of Dying

As most of you know, the Washington, D.C. City Council recently took a step toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide for those with less than six months to live.

Although I have written elsewhere about the dangerous implications of this legislation, in today’s post I want to stand up for the dying, at home and in nursing homes, the fully lucid and those with advanced Alzheimer’s, those who are moving toward death relatively painlessly and those who are suffering.

As a priest, it has been my privilege to accompany many people as they prepare for death. Some have gone quickly; others have lingered for years. From a pure worldly perspective, death seems little more than a calamity and a cause for great sadness. But from the perspective of faith, there is something beautiful going on.

I know you may think it bold that I describe it this way, but in the dying process something necessary and quite beautiful is taking place. It is born in pain, but if we are faithful it brings forth gifts and glory.

I have seen these gifts unfold for the many I have accompanied in death, both parishioners and members of my own family. They forgave people, said and heard important things like “I love you” for the first time in years, let go of stubborn attachments, began (perhaps for the first time) to long for God and Heaven, and experienced many other healing and powerful things. Death focuses gives perspective like nothing else. In all this there is beauty as well as needed healing before judgment day.

I shudder to think that so many today fail to recognize these necessary fruits of dying and would so easily jettison its critical gifts, which come in an admittedly strange package.

In addition, in many who are dying I see two Scriptures essentially fulfilled.

I. Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). When I walk the halls of nursing homes I behold a rather astonishing thing: Many men and women who raised families, ran businesses, protested bravely in the Civil Rights Movement, fought wars, gave sage advice to their children, and commanded respect in their communities have become like small children.

Some can no longer walk. Some need to be fed. Some cry and need consolation. Some clutch dolls. Some wear diapers, Some can no longer talk. Many need constant care. “How tragic,” the world says. But I see a beauty, for they are changing and becoming like children again. A kind of innocence is being restored, a complete dependence, without which they might never make it to Heaven. Their status as children is fully evident and they become humble enough for Heaven.

It’s painful but beautiful—very beautiful.

Some years ago, a very dear friend of mine died. Catherine had been the pastoral assistant and business manager of the parish of my first pastorate. She had been at the parish for more than 50 years and seemed to know just about everything, and I depended on her for practically everything. Rather suddenly, she came down with a rare and aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease. Within six months of the diagnosis she no longer recognized anyone. And yet there was a childlike joy that came over her. She had a favorite doll she hugged closely and when I would walk into the room she would light up. She did not seem to recognize me but she loved company. She would sing, and although I couldn’t make out the words, it seemed to be some sort of nursery song.

It was a remarkable thing to witness. Here was a woman on whom I had so thoroughly depended, now in such a dependent state. And yet she was happier than I had ever seen her. She had become like a little child, and it was clear that God was preparing her for Heaven. That was a gift, though a painful one.

Another great gift was this: Almost to her last day, she never failed to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. Long after she had stopped recognizing anyone else, she still received Holy Communion with great devotion. She might be humming or looking around, but as soon as I reached in my pocket for the pyx, she stopped, looked, made the sign of the cross, and folded her hands. That was the result of years of training and faithfulness. It was a beautiful testimony to her undying faith in the Eucharist and it was her last lesson to all of us.

II. There is only one thing I ask of the Lord, this alone I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze on the beauty of the Lord within his temple (Psalm 27:4).

Most of us who are still healthy and reasonably active would have a hard time praying this prayer absolutely. The fact is, we want a lot of things: good health, creature comforts, a pay raise, and for our pet project to go well. And oh yes, somewhere in all that, God and Heaven, but later; Heaven can wait.

How obtuse we can be in our desires! It’s really quite strange to want anything more than God and Heaven. And yet many struggle to want God more than the things of this world. Somehow God has to purge us of earthly desires gradually until all we want is Him.

And here, too, the dying process is so important and so beautiful. Little by little in life we give back to God our abilities, our health, and many of our loved ones. Finally, we are led to the point during our dying days when we are given the grace to give everything back.

I remember my father saying to me in his final weeks, “I just want to be with God.” I heard my grandmother say that too. Many others I have accompanied on their final journey have said the same thing: “I just want to be with God.” And they meant it, too; it wasn’t just a slogan. They had given everything back; their treasure was now in Heaven. They had sold all they had for the “pearl of great price.” Now they could sing the words of the old spiritual, “You may have all this world, just give me Jesus.” They had given away everything they had and were now ready to follow Jesus.

For most of us it, will take the dying process to get us to the point when we can say, “There is only one thing I ask of the Lord, this alone I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze on the beauty of the Lord within his temple.”

And so there it is, the “beauty” of dying. It is a strange and painful beauty to be sure, but a beauty nonetheless. In this age of increasing acceptance of suicide, that sees no value or purpose or value in the dying process, we do well to behold and proclaim its strange but true beauty. We must recognize the dignity of the dying, who fulfill Scripture as they make their final passage.

Surely we grieve, but through faith we also recognize this strange and wonderful beauty.

One of the finest hymns about dying, “Abide with Me,” was written by Henry F. Lyte in 1847, as he lay dying from tuberculosis.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.


Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.


Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


Within Our Darkest Night, You Kindle a Fire That Never Dies Away

blog10-24And old song from the Taizé Community says, “Within our darkest night [, Lord], you kindle a fire that never dies away, that never dies away.” Something of this “light in darkness” has come to me in the deep winter of moral collapse that is present-day America. For this I can only thank the Lord and marvel at His paradoxical providence.

In my parish, the darkness was made very local and very real when Planned Parenthood announced the opening of their “flagship” center, right here in our neighborhood.

To add insult to injury, the center would be located next door to an elementary school and directly across the street from a middle school. On that street, many children would enter through school doors to be educated for life. But through other doors, children would enter to have their lives snuffed out, some by chemical burning, others by dismemberment.

To add irony to injury, the facility would be located on 4th St. NE at number 1225 (12/25 is Christmas Day). Coincidence? I doubt it. Even if men are not so clever, the Evil One is. 1225 … a kind of mockery of the Incarnation.

Our darkest night was upon us.

“Within our darkest night [, Lord], you kindle a fire that never dies away, that never dies away.”

Pro-life action was not a signature of the parishes surrounding Capitol Hill. But with the looming threat of the new “flagship” center, all that was about to change.

As a local pastor, I knew that if I did nothing about this abortion “clinic,” my parish and I would face severe judgment one day. A prayer discussion began in my heart and in the hearts of others as well. My own heartfelt awareness sounded something like this:

“What must I do, O Lord? Few of the parishes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood have active prolife ministries!”

And whose fault is that? the Lord asked me.

“Mine (and others), I suppose.”

Well, skip the blame game and get started. You know what to do; you’ve done it before.

“Ah. Get people to walk, people to pray, and people to cook!”

Yes! Form a community of life. Gather leaders and get started. I have 7,000 people on Capitol Hill who have never bent the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18; Rom 11:3-5). Go to them, anoint leaders, and summon them to witness.

Five parishes, stirred from their slumber, switched on the light, began to pray, and prepared to act.

Yes, in this dark hour, God kindled a light. Sometimes it seems dark, but dawn is not far away; it’s just beneath the horizon. It was time to assemble a community of life to call the culture of death to reconsider and to repent. As the local dean at that time, I was commanded by the Lord to act.

Through my experience with evangelization, I had learned that witnesses require support from others. Due to advanced age, failing health, or perhaps just a reserved demeanor, some people find it difficult to engage others. But even so, they can do other things such as praying for those who witness or helping to sustain those witnesses by providing a meal. In previous outreach efforts by my parish, we evangelized the neighborhood in such a way that the whole parish could participate. Some walked from door to door. Others prayed in the church while we walked. Still others prepared a meal so that all could debrief, rejoice, and build a unified community at the end of the day.

God gave me this message:

Do it here. I want a community of life to come forth from the parishes surrounding this dark clinic. Some will walk in witness, some will pray in church at the same time, some will prepare a meal to help all to give thanks and build a supportive community. I have appointed leaders already. Call the diocese; they will help. I will be with you; just get started!

God sent so many people to help from the five parishes and all around the diocese. He sent Teresa, Mary, Maggie, Yajaira, Susan, Linda, Molly, Fr. Hyacinth, Chris, and Elisa, just to name a few (this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, and I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s contributions). He sent many others who provided wisdom and experience.

Five parishes together supplied both experienced and new pro-life leaders. By God’s grace, we gathered together to build a community of life. It was still dark, but God was kindling a light. Our meetings began.

Just before I went to a key meeting, I prayed, “Give us a sign, Lord. We want to be sure that we’re doing your will. We need to hear from you. Give us a charge and a name, O Lord!”

I opened up the Bible at random and put my finger down on the page, near the top. Though I usually give the Lord one “do over,” it was not necessary this time. When I looked down, my finger was pointing to this text from Proverbs:

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not God who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to our work? (Proverbs 24:10-12)

I was astounded; I couldn’t wait to share it!

When I arrived at the meeting, I told the group what had happened. We all sat in silence. God could not have been any clearer. Though we had wondered what to call our new community of life, one of our leaders, Mary, now suggested, “Why not call it ‘Proverbs 24’?”

I wondered aloud whether the name was too vague, but we decided that it was a name that would make people ask about it and then we’d have a teaching opportunity.

And so we had our name: “Proverbs 24: A Community of Life.”

We began to recruit actively from the five parishes. We asked for people who would witness, people who would pray in church for us, and people who would prepare a communal meal. Two Sundays during Respect Life Month in October featured our announcements. We had sign-up tables where people could indicate their willingness to attend an orientation and commit to three Saturdays of witness in front of the Planned Parenthood “clinic,” prayer in the church at the same time, or help in preparing a communal meal.

Meanwhile, we tried legal means to prevent the opening. Surely the zoning laws would require a hearing before such a facility was opened right next to a school! At such a site, no liquor store would be able to be opened without public notice. Yet we, the citizens of the neighborhood, were not informed until the project was well underway. We requested and were granted an appeal, but unfortunately, on Oct. 4th, our appeal was denied. And so, shortly before the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood in mid-October, the center opened.

But all is not lost. As a result of our recruiting effort at Sunday Masses, ninety people across the five parishes expressed interest in helping and forty-five showed up this past Saturday for training.

Please pray for us. Although Satan has made a move in our community, God never fails. He will bring good even from this dreadful abortion center. If our parishes were sleepy in this regard in the past, shame on us. But God has a way of awakening a faithful remnant. Pray that we will grow. Pray that we will persevere. And please pray that we will never fail to witness to the glory of human life, no matter the challenges.

“Within our darkest night Lord, you kindle a fire that never dies away, that never dies away.”

Summoned, Sure, and Strong: Proverbs for Pro-Lifers

baby1By way of spiritually preparing for a pro-life project here in my parish and deanery, I asked the Lord to show me any biblical text He wanted me to see. I randomly opened the Bible and my eyes fell on Proverbs 24, which has some very good material for reflection for any and all engaged in pro-life witness.

Consider some lessons drawn from the 24th chapter of the Book of Proverbs:

OUR SUMMONS If you remain indifferent in times of adversity, your strength will depart from you. Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution withdraw not. If you say, “I know not this man!” does not he who tests hearts perceive it? He who guards your life knows it, and he will repay each according to his deeds (Prov 24:10-12).

Quite simply, we are told that this is a battle in which we must engage; we must take a stance. We must stand up and be counted; we must witness for life. Either our silence will condemn us or our witness will bring forth blessings.

Tens of millions of unborn babies have been and are being dragged to their death and are “tottering to execution” in abortion centers throughout this land. Too many Americans say, “I don’t know about this,” or “It’s not my issue,” or “It’s none of my business,” or (worst of all) “I’m personally opposed but don’t want to impose my view on others.”

God knows and sees through all of this. Each of us will have to render an account for what we have done or not done in the face of the scourge of abortion. This public slaughter cannot remain something that we are merely privately bothered by. We must stand up and be counted. This passage from Proverbs indicates that silence and inaction when the innocent are being dragged off to slaughter is tacit approval.

We are summoned to make a response!

OUR STRENGTH A wise man is more powerful than a strong man, a man of knowledge than a man of might; for it is by wise guidance that you wage your war, and the victory is due to the wealth of counsellors (Prov 24:5-6).

One thing is for sure: in this battle of the last 40+ years, our primary strength has not been in the law or in politics. Judges and princes (politicians) have done little to limit abortion on demand. At best, we have mildly limited access to unrestricted abortion. In general, the federal courts have resisted even the most reasonable and mild restrictions on abortion. There is also no political resolve at either the congressional or executive level to end abortion.

So our strength is in our wisdom and knowledge. The wisdom of God teaches us that God knew us before we were ever formed in our Mother’s womb (Jer 1:5) and that no life is an accident. It teaches us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb and fashioned us wonderfully and fearfully in the secret and sacred place of the womb (Ps 139). The wisdom of God is clear that to abort a child in the womb is to snatch the knitting from God’s hands and pridefully say, “This shall not be.” Scripture says, Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Does your work say, “The potter has no hands”? (Is 45:9)

And as for knowledge, in the end the truth will out. We are in a battle for hearts and minds. As medical evidence continues to mount, along with vivid 3-D imagery of babies in the womb, it is getting harder and harder for supporters of abortion to argue that abortion does not end the life of a human person who is, from the very early months, aware and able to feel pain. We must persistently and consistently persuade by assembling evidence and presenting it.

It is true that some stubbornly resist the truth of what they do not want to see, but there are many others whose ambivalence can be eroded and who have not hardened their hearts, as have the extremists and activists. Pulling back the curtain further and further is slowly winning the day. The truth is on our side and facts will eventually prevail.

Deep down, people know the truth of our stance. Deep down, people understand what they are doing and know that we are right. This explains a lot of the anger directed toward us.

Consider how the facts about cigarette smoking, once a commonplace habit and even considered glamorous, have practically ended its acceptance. Consider, too, how the acceptance of slavery (rooted in many similar arguments and flawed logic) is now considered a disgrace in our nation’s history, along with the segregationist attitudes that followed. Harmful lies cannot persist forever.

Our strength must continue to be rooted in the wisdom of God and in the knowledge of medical facts about the truth of life in the womb. People can and will be stubborn, but facts are stubborn things, too. We must boldly and confidently present those facts.

OUR SURETYBe not provoked with evildoers, nor envious of the wicked; For the evil man has no future, the lamp of the wicked will be put out. … For the just man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble to ruin. Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult, lest the Lord see it and be displeased with you, and withdraw his wrath from your enemy (Proverbs 24:19-20,16-18).

It is easy to become discouraged and battle-weary. This has been a long fight and the death toll astonishing. Every now and then I encounter pro-life and other cultural warriors who have become grouchy and who struggle with anger, even directing it at fellow pro-lifers. We have to remember that wicked philosophies and erroneous doctrines have their time, but they will not last. As this proverb reminds us, the lamp of the wicked will be put out and if they do not repent they will stumble to ruin.

Scripture says elsewhere, For the Lord who avenges blood is mindful of the oppressed; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted (Ps 9:12). God will thus requite the blood of the innocent that cry out to him (see Gen 4:10; Rev 6:10). He will do so in His time and in His way, but all will one day know and be ashamed of the horror that this nation has inflicted on our most innocent and defenseless members. The world will one day look back with deep shame upon our era, when the killing of infants in the womb was celebrated as a “right.” This period in history will be deservedly be called the new “Dark Ages.” For now, we can only soldier on in our work to change the hearts of others.

The passage also says that we should not let the wicked provoke us to vengeful anger or hatred. Unless they repent, in the end they will be the saddest of people; their lamps will go out and the deepest darkness of what they have done will envelop them. Our only true and godly stance is to pray for their conversion.

Many of them have now joined us. There are more than a few who have escaped the abortion industry and now work tirelessly to save lives and scatter the darkness and lies of abortion supporters/providers. Thank God they have escaped; thank God for their witness. We can only pray that more will leave their ranks and join with us! Keep praying and working for the conversion—not the destruction—of our opponents.

Indeed, we cannot become like our common enemy, Satan, who hates human beings and loves to see their downfall. We cannot, as the proverb says, rejoice at the downfall or destruction of our opponent or of any human being. While we may rejoice when evil influences end, we should never delight in the destruction of any person made in God’s image.

The worst deception of the Devil is to draw us into hate and vengeance (cloaked in righteousness) even as we work to preach the glory of life. Such behavior is a deception because no end, however good, can justify evil means or can excuse becoming like our enemy. If we become like Satan, he has us, no matter the cause. Leave final judgment to God, because only He can see well enough to do so.

These are a few proverbs to which I piously believe God pointed me when I asked for guidance. Our battle is difficult and wearying, but we must recall that we are summoned to it, whatever its difficulties; silence is unacceptable. All the more reason to rest in the gifts of wisdom and knowledge and to insist that others look to the truth that is written on their hearts. All the more reason to recall that we are on the right side of history and that the lie of abortion cannot forever stand.

If you find a good fight, get in it!

Marching to Save Lives and a Nation


witness-to-lifeThe following is from a Homily I preached just prior to our march and prayer vigil at the Planned Parenthood “clinic” being built here in Washington, D.C.

The first reading at Mass today (Saturday of the 11th week of the year) is from Second Chronicles; it details the reforms of King Joash and then his sad decline. Joash’s grandmother Athalia, a worshipper of Baal, was Queen of Judah and proved to be much like her mother Jezebel; she rose to power by having every possible competitor murdered, including almost all of her grandchildren. But Joash had been hidden away and so escaped her bloody rampage. Once he come of age, he was declared king by the high priest Jehoiada in a coup against Athalia. The wicked Athalia was killed during the coup. King Joash began reforms and restored the Temple and the proper worship of Yahweh.

When reading the elaborate stories of the kings of Israel in First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles, it is easy to be bewildered by all the names, complex events, intrigue, and corruption.

Basically, they tell the story of a nation, blessed by God and called to manifest His glory, that turned time and time again to sin, including the worship of idols. Despite warnings from the prophets, the Israelites stubbornly refused to repent. Consequently, the once-blessed nation declined into weakness. The Ten lost tribes of Israel in the north went first, conquered by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. And even after seeing this, Judah (in the south) remained stubborn and was eventually conquered by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.

This story is all too familiar to us who live in a blessed nation, once deeply (though imperfectly) rooted in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures but now casting aside its roots. What will come of us if we do not repent?

Consider the sad tale told in today’s first reading.

I. The SolaceAfter the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash, and the king then listened to them.

The story opens with a brief description of solace and unity in the aftermath of King Joash’s reforms. With the wide cooperation and generous contributions of the people, the Temple has been rebuilt and proper worship of God restored. For a brief moment the nation is in relative peace and unity, centered on God.

II. The Sin [But] they left the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols; and because of this crime of theirs, wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem.

Idolatry returns. They go back to worshiping the Canaanite gods, the Baals. Why? Perhaps they supposed that prosperity would be more likely if they burned some incense to the local gods. But on a deeper level, the Israelites were enamored of the ways of the Canaanites and sought to imitate them. For indeed, the Canaanites lived lustily and often opulently. So did the Egyptians and other ancient cultures whose ways the ancient Jews too easily admired and sought after.

Surely this sounds familiar. Even now, most Catholics and Christians look and sound more like the secular world than like the Lord who rescued us. So deeply do we pine for glamour, power, and the lusts and priorities of this world!

The text says that wrath came down upon Judah and Jerusalem. What is wrath? It is our experience of the total incompatibility of our sinful state before the holiness of God. As such, wrath is more in us than it is in God. God is not moody; He does not suddenly become grouchy. He does not change—we do. As our sins darken our souls, the bright light of God seems harsh and painful. As sin accustoms us to iniquity, holiness seems hard, even hellacious. But the problem is in us, not in God. Wrath is our problem, not God’s.

This explains how a child in the womb, once thought a great blessing, is now seen by many as a threat that must be terminated. This is why chastity and lifelong marriage seem unrealistic to many in the modern secular mindset. But God is not harsh or wrathful; His Law is not impossible. It is we who are soft, so accustomed to darkness that the light seems too harsh. But God is not the angry and wrathful one, we are. A wrath, even a hatred of holiness has come upon us. Therefore, as a culture, we cling to our idols.

III. The Shout Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, the people would not listen to their warnings. Then the Spirit of God possessed Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the LORD’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you.’”

Why, America, do we cling to our sins so that we cannot prosper? Why do we insist on our own ways so stubbornly that we demand the right to kill our own children and our elderly? Why do we destroy our marriages and families through divorce, redefinition, and promiscuity? Why do stand by and watch the very pillars of our culture and its future collapse? Why?

God did not leave ancient Israel without prophets, and He has not left us without them either. Today we gather together to prophesy, to speak for God. As we march today praying, we appeal to the consciences of everyone who sees and hears us. And we say, as we must, that this is wrong. Abortion is wrong. It kills our children and gravely harms their mothers. This must end. Come to your senses, America! Abortion is not health care, because a patient always dies. Abortion is not pro-woman, because half of the millions of its victims are female. Let us not abandon the Lord, lest He abandon us, handing us over fully to our own sinfulness!

Yes, we prophesy today, as we must, on this and many other issues.

IV. The StubbornnessBut they conspired against him, and at the king’s order they stoned him to death in the court of the LORD’s temple. Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him by Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, and slew his son. And as Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge.”

In a shocking turn of savage wickedness, Joash the great reformer, kills the son of the very man who had saved him from being murdered and restored him to rightful power.

But the Lord does not leave unavenged any unrepented sin. We must seek the conversion of all before the Day of Judgment. Stubborn unrepentance will not go unanswered. The Book of Hebrews says of that day,

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment … For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:26-31).

Our call for repentance is not merely an angry shout; it is a merciful call to seek the Lord while He may be found and to call on Him while He is still near (see Isaiah 55:6).

V. The SignificanceAt the turn of the year a force of Arameans came up against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, did away with all the princes of the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the Aramean force came with few men, the LORD surrendered a very large force into their power, because Judah had abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash. After the Arameans had departed from him, leaving him in grievous suffering, his servants conspired against him because of the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

A nation that God had blessed has now so thoroughly blocked its blessings that a force of just a few men is able to conquer it, toppling its king and local leaders and making the nation a vassal of Assyria. The text says this happened “because Judah had abandoned the Lord.” Joash, the king who once brought about great reform, saw death, because he had murdered the innocent prophet Zechariah.

America, what about us? Increasingly, we are abandoning the Lord.

How does abandoning the Lord weaken a nation? How can a nation be strong which no longer looks to God for a common moral vision? How can a nation have a unified culture without a common cultus (faith) to which all look with a reverent obedience and holy fear? How can a nation be strong when its families are weakened by divorce, sexual promiscuity, and sexual confusion? If our families are not strong, our communities are not strong. Weak and divided communities cannot constitute a strong nation tied together by loyalty and a common vision. Today, we seldom show the resolve and unity necessary to stave off our enemies, be they foreign aggressors or the moral evils within us. Often we cannot even agree on what is evil or on what is the cause of our malaise. We are becoming, like ancient Judah, an easy target. The words addressed to ancient Israel are increasingly appropriate for us: If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (Is 7:9).

Joash suffered death for his murder of the innocent. How can we as a nation forever escape judgment for our own shedding of innocent blood through abortion? God lamented the behavior of ancient Israel: The people have forsaken me and have profaned this place… they have filled this place with the blood of innocents (Jer 19:4). On your skirts is found the lifeblood of the innocent poor … yet in spite of all these things you say, “I am innocent” (Jer 2:34). And Jesus warned Israel about the shedding of innocent blood, Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all (Luke 11:50-51).

witness-to-life2We who pray and march today love our country, culture, and people. We do not seek punishment, but a repentance that will heal. Our cries are not of condemnation but of loving concern.

Today’s reading is a sober reminder that no nation can stand or remain strong which sheds the blood of the innocent and calls it a legal right. America, we cannot forever evade the effect of our sins, especially those directed against those who are most vulnerable. We cannot find peace by shedding the blood of innocent children. We cannot remain strong and blessed if we do not return to the Lord and walk humbly with Him.

We march today in love and concern. We commend ourselves to the consciences of all who will see and hear us. We seek to make clear that what is called a “clinic” or a “women’s healthcare center” is in fact a place where thousands of innocent unborn children will have their lives ended.

Heal our land, O Lord. A great darkness has enveloped us. The darkness grows ever deeper as the effects of our sins multiply. Send a miraculous grace to heal our land. Help us who march today to reach others with the seed of truth!

The old hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation,” succinctly presents the truth of today’s first reading:

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Decide well, fellow Christians, fellow countrymen. Decide well, America.

Life is something we embrace and cherish – a message we proclaim through our city streets! #DrivewithFrancis #iPray4Life

A video posted by Archdiocese of Washington (@washarchdiocese) on

Seduced by Poverty

By Ron Reiring (Flickr: Tanana River, Alaska) CC-BY-2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

As an idealistic, optimistic, college student, I was introduced to the documents of Vatican II, specifically, the opening paragraph of Gadium et Spes. “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” This perfectly captured my desire to serve the Lord by serving the poor. I applied to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and asked to be assigned to Alaska because I wanted to work among people of a culture other than my own. The JVC was happy to oblige and before long I found myself standing outside my new home—on the banks of the Yukon River in Tanana, Alaska, in front of a bright yellow trailer that was capable of running water but did not have it at the moment or in the next two months.

Quickly, it became clear that I was seduced by the idea of poverty and completely unprepared for the reality. For example, I never imagined it involved a yellow trailer with the ugliest orange and yellow shag carpet I had ever seen. Poor is so much more than lack of money.  I had never had to live in a community in which no one was untouched by the toll of alcoholism. From its effect on unborn children, to the destruction of family life to the social toll within the community, life was often bleak. What really, I asked myself, did it mean that the “griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted,…are the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ?”

We are not the Red Cross

Paragraph 22, of Gaudium et Spes suggests “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us.” This was proven true for me during my year in the tundra. My JVC year in Tanana taught me what makes the charitable and social service ministry different from the Red Cross. Our vision is that of the Gospel that enables us to look at the world through God’s eyes.

I have been thinking about this because last Saturday, more than 100 volunteers in social ministry and Pro-life ministry came together for a day of formation.  The reading of the day, took us back to Jesus’ suffering, reminding us that even as we glory in the grace of the Resurrection and the Easter season, it is never separated from Jesus’ suffering. These are volunteers who work on issues that seem unsolvable and with people whose suffering is overwhelming . Volunteers whose work puts them in the face of the riddles of poverty, abortion, war, bigotry, euthanasia and advocacy. They work with some people who come over and over for help but often refuse the option that will be most helpful. When they have been blessed to relieve the suffering on one person, they remember the ten people they could not help. What keeps them from despair? What keeps them optimistic and enthusiastic? For many people they remember the moment of choice—to give in to feeling of overwhelmed and walk away from the ministry and the mission,  or to turn to Our Lord and the Gospel. “Through Christ and in Christ the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful.”  The gift of Catholic Social Teaching is that it marries the Gospel to the existence of grief, despair and injustice. The Church does not choose to simply preach the vision of the world to come and advise people to endure the present and wait patiently for the coming of the kingdom.  The Church has not offered simple answers to what are complex riddles wrapped in mystery. The Church proclaims the truth, that the riddles of this age are wrapped in the mystery of God’s plan for the building of the kingdom. What the Church has to offer is itself—a community linked, joined, bound to humankind by the deepest of bonds.  The Church knows that it will be judged on its solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable.

After overwhelmed

It is the mature follower of Christ who when feeling overwhelmed can dig deep and find courage and  strength to continue to enter into the mystery of suffering in the story of the Church, in our sacramental life and in service. To embrace the gift of being able to grieve with the broken hearted and be an instrument of hope, to embrace the mystery that, as Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church reflected “All the way to heaven is heaven!”

Verizon Center Homily at Youth Rally for Life

Some of you have written and asked if the Homily I was privileged to preach at the Verizon center was available. There is an audio version here:

Monsignor Charles Pope’s Rally for Life homily by PalmerReview1

Thanks to Matt Palmer, over at The Welcome Matt for supplying this audio.

If you have any trouble playing the embedded audio here is a Hotlink that might also work:

I have also embedded the Video now at the bottom

Also here is the written text. However, I do not read my homilies, so this is not a verbatim of what I preached yesterday. (Thanks to Sr. Bernadette for Photo)

WHAT –  Life is Sacred.

To say that something is sacred is to say that it belongs especially to God; to say that it’s God’s property. It means to say, “Be careful, this belongs to God.”

Well I want you to know that You belong to God, that you are sacred, that your life is sacred. And we are here today to say that all human life is sacred. Turn to somebody and say, “I’m somebody!” I’m a holy, holy, child of the King, thank God I’ve been redeemed!” Yes, your life is sacred, you belong to God. And so does every human person around you. You, and everyone you see here are a work of God, you are his, you are the fruit of His love.

Scripture says,  Before I ever formed you in the womb I knew you (Jer 1:4).

Now we say that life begins at conception. And medically we are right. But there is also a great mystery about your life that some how it stretches back, long before you were created. BEFORE I formed you in the womb, says the Lord, I knew all about you. I thought about you and already loved you. And I set into motion everything that would be necessary to create you. I didn’t just get your parents to meet, I got your grandparents, and your great Grandparents, and your great, great, great, great grandparents to meet all in the right combination on both sides of your family, and I had you in mind the whole time!

Again, Scripture says.  “I have loved you with an everlasting love, says the Lord; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jer 31:3).

Yes,  God has always loved you, from all eternity he has know you and loved you. That’s true of everyone here, and everywhere, and every child in every womb in this whole world.

And of the children in the womb, and all of us who have been in our mother’s womb Scripture says,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. Your eyes saw my unformed body.

And every one of my days were written in your book before one of them ever came  to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

SO WHAT – Do you see? God knows us and loves before we are made. And he knows every thing we will ever do.    And then out of love and as a direct decision of his very own he creates us and personally knits us together in our mother’s womb. Human life is sacred. It is holy. We are God’s.

There is no one here who is a surprise to God. No one who is an accident. And there is no child in any mother’s womb anywhere in this world right now,  who is a surprise, an accident or an inconvenience to God. Every human person is loved by God, willed by God and desired by God. (Someone say, “I belong to God…I am God’s work).

And no one can claim the right to destroy human life in the womb, to snatch the knitting from God’s hand and say, this is a mistake, this is inconvenient, this shall not be! Abortion doesn’t just say no to life, it says no to God.


There’s a line from an Old African American spiritual  that says, “Some go to Church for to sing and shout. But before six months they’s all turned out” . In other words, I’m glad you’re here today, and I’m glad we can celebrate that life is good and Life is sacred. Praise the Lord! But the bigger question is, what will you be doing tomorrow, and next week, and six months from now?  Some go to Church for to sing and shout…Before six months they’s all turned out. Yes, that’s all it really was, a lot of singing and shouting. That was good! But now what?

Now I want to give you a few important things to do after this day is over. And I want you to remember what the Lord said in the first reading. He said simply “Choose life.” And that’s a big and fundamental decision: I am for life, I respect the dignity and sacredness of human life. But like any fundamental choice, it has to be support by many smaller and daily choices. We can’t just shout “Pro-life” we have to live it daily.

And how?  Let me give you a few things to think about: Chastity, Charity, Courage, Constancy

CHASTITY – Did you know that 85% of abortions of performed on unmarried women? Now think about that. That means that the primary cause of abortion is being unchaste. The bible is very clear that we are not to have sexual relations before, or outside of marriage.

Now one of the first ways you can work to prevent abortion is to be chaste and to encourage your friends to do the same! To be chaste means that you are going to wait until you are married to have sex. To be chaste means that you will dress modestly, act modestly, and prudently avoid situations that might cause you temptation. It means you are going to encourage your friends to do the same. Some may laugh at you. Others call you names. But a lot of them will respect you for it and know deep down inside that you are right. So keep at it. Chastity isn’t easy and there are a lot of temptations and pressures put on you in this world. But stay chaste and call on your friends to do the same.

Remember 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women. Again, that means that the main cause of abortion is that men and women are being unchaste. And if we want to end abortion we have to talk a lot more about chastity and live it! If you want to say you’re pro-life you have to commit to being chaste and proclaim it loud and clear. St Paul said in the second reading today: set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity!

CHARITY – Another statistic about abortion is that 42% of them are performed on poor women. So I hope you understand that we have to reach out to pregnant women in crisis. Some of them lack financial resources, some others fear the social consequences of being pregnant. And because they are in crisis they don’t think they have options. So we have to reach out and help women and families in this situation. And the Church does! We have crisis pregnancy centers, we have project Gabriel and project Rachael. We also have Catholic Charities to reach out to all the poor and help them. And as you get older please consider helping the Church to help women and families in crisis. Get involved. Remember almost half of abortions are related to poverty and  social crisis. We can’t just say no to abortion, we have to help people say no.

COURAGE – I also want to tell you that there is a connection to the disabled. These days most most babies in the womb are monitored for birth defects and disabilities. And one of the great tragedies in our day is that, when families receive word that their baby may have Down Syndrome or other defects or disabilities almost 90% of them choose to abort that child. It’s a kind of hidden genocide.

Disabilities and the demand for “perfect” babies are a big factor in the decision to abort. So I want to ask you to pray that God will give you and all a deep love and respect for the disabled. They bring important gifts to us. My own sister was disabled and died over 20 years ago. But I want to tell you that she brought important gifts to our family and taught me lessons I will never forget. Never conclude that someone else’s life is not worth living. I takes courage to accept the disabled into our families, but they are God’s gift, and their lives are precious and sacred to God.

CONSTANCY – Finally, keep marching, keep walking keep talking! A Gallup poll said last year that we are making progress. It said that 61% of Americans now think abortion should be illegal most if not all the time. That’s up a lot from 20 years ago. Our godly struggle to win the hearts and minds of Americans is working, little by little. It’s a long an uphill journey, but we’re getting there!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of those willing to be coworkers with God.

So remember today’s rally and march are like a mountaintop experience for us. We rejoice to declare that human life is sacred and that we exist as the result of a loving decision by God. But  remember too, Some go to Church for to sing and shout, before six months they’s all turned out.  So, don’t just shout today, be pro-life in your decisions tomorrow and six months from now. Chastity, Charity to the poor and those in crisis, Courage and care for the disabled, Constancy in our witness and practice.

And as we head to the promised land of an increasingly abortion free America I’m mindful of an Old Spiritual that says, Walk together children, don’t you get weary, there’s a great camp meeting in the promised land. Yes, the song goes on to say: work together children, pray together, sing together, shout together children…there’s a great camp meeting in the promised land.

Now Make a joyful shout for life!