Monday, January 19, 2015


9 Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage

Who would have foreseen such a linking of novenas, pilgrimages, and hashtags?! 

Creating a culture of life clearly depends more on winning hearts than on winning arguments.  And, like a good teacher who brings forth both the old and the new, Mother Church has seized this moment to invite her children to rediscover the path of spiritual transformation.

Changing hearts and minds always begins "at home," of course.  It is always a matter of you and I loving more selflessly, rather than just demanding that others do so.  It is always a matter of you and I embracing each human life as a gift--not only the unexpected baby but also the unprepared mother, not only the victims but also the perpetrators of our incessant cultural violence, not only our "allies" but also our "enemies" in the waning culture wars.

With this in mind, the U.S. Bishops are encouraging Catholics around the country to recommit themselves to a classic combination from the Church's treasury of resources:  prayer and penance.  The question thus becomes:  Am I willing to pray for friends or family members who do not see Life as the real civil rights issue of our day?  Am I willing to fast--from my dependence on food or drink; from my reliance on creature comforts or conveniences, from my insistence on my plans or my way every day--in order to create a new space where my will is more interdependent on God's?

Prayer and fasting purify our intentions.  They change us, so that we might be more receptive to the word or gesture that the Holy Spirit longs to accomplish in and through us.

The current 9 Days for Life campaign is brilliant in its simplicity:  It includes a specific prayer intention for each day, as well as suggestions for meaningful acts of reparation.  It also unites Catholics around the country with their Bishops, and it points toward a deeper way forward beyond the merely political path which seems to have become a cul-de-sac .  In addition, nine days is just long enough to make it a real commitment, but realistic enough to make it feasible :)

Although the "official" novena runs from January 17th through the 25th, encompassing the national day of prayer for the legal protection of the unborn, it's never too late to jump in.  The materials could definitely be used from the 22nd through the end of the month, for example, or perhaps by praying in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands who will be marching in Washington D.C. on the 22nd.

The majority of Americans disagree with abortion on demand through nine months of pregnancy.  Science has established the fact that new human life is present from the moment of conception.  Ever-improving ultrasounds and phenomenal advances in neo-natal care have helped us not only see life more clearly, but also welcome premature babies into the world sooner than ever imaginable.  Yet slogans like "war on women" and "keep your hands off my ovaries" continue to short-circuit real dialogue.

Let's pray that pilgrims and penitents across the country can find new ways to meet people where they are, and accompany them to where the Lord of life wants them to be.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas, pray for us--

P.S.  This 3-minute video clip is a "must see" on a related life issue (particularly if you know anyone battling cancer): "Death with Dignity."

P.P.S.  There's still plenty of time to catch up with Pope Francis' The Joy of the Gospel:  Over 800 subscribers are receiving one paragraph per day through, and we are just beginning chapter one, on the "missionary transformation of the Church"!