In your mercy, give me life, O Lord,
and I will do your commands (Psalm 119:88).
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Pope St. John Paul II pleas with us, “A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer” (Evangelium Vitae no. 100).
January 22 is declared as a particular day of prayer and penance, called the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children” designated by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 373. “In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”
January 22 also marks the tragic anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing the deliberate taking of unborn human life through elective abortion. Judicial sanction of the termination of life in the womb, seen by some as a “right”, is a “wrong” that for 49 years has coarsened hearts and darkened minds. Today, after more than 60 million abortions, there is less regard for all human life as society discards those deemed inconvenient because of age, infirmity or any other reason.
During these past 49 years, we have failed to help each other understand the beauty of the covenant between God and His people handed through the Sacrament of Marriage, where children are the gift of the fulfillment of love between husband and wife. Throughout these 49 years, we have witnessed the declination of respect of all humankind as Roe v. Wade so flippantly discarded life. This lack of respect is alive in every area of our relationships and we have all suffered because of it from exploitation of the human body, to the lifelong consequences from an abortion for both women and men, such as depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts to the many other ways in which we fail to respect each other (bullying, violence, etc.).
As a community of faith who believes that at the moment of conception a person created by God for God comes into the world, we are called to observe this day through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and acts of charity. Each person, made in the image and likeness of God, is a gift.
The ministry of the Culture of Life Office of Catholic Charities of Central Florida calls us to transform and build a society where every human being is valued and protected through prayer, education, pastoral care, and public policy efforts. Its staff and volunteers inspire people throughout the Diocese of Orlando to understand the truth about why and how we are created in God’s image of love. I am especially grateful for the reconstitution of Project Rachel which provides healing to men and women who have been emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually impacted by an abortion.
On the eve of this sacred observation, Friday, January 21, I invite you to join me for the Annual Mass for Life at St. James Cathedral, 215 N. Orange Avenue, downtown Orlando at 12:10 p.m. During the Mass we pray, through our self-offering, with Christ that we might proclaim the Gospel of Life with honesty and love to the people of our time. We pray that we accept the Gospel of Life as a gift ever new as we celebrate it with joy and gratitude for the lives of all God’s people. We pray for courage to unceasingly bear witness to the Gospel of Life resolutely, in order to build together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.
Reflect upon your own understanding of the sanctity of life and how you help flourish this beautiful gift or perhaps, how you have failed to do so. Pray the Novena, 9 Days for Life, for the protection of human life and to build the culture of life within our world. During this new year, consider how we might serve each other through the strength of the Gospel of Life to bind heaven to earth. As God is the source of life, we ask for His mercy and great love.