By Tanya Connor
GRAFTON – Your presence outside an abortion clinic makes a difference for those headed there – and for you.
With that message, David O’Connell, a longtime Catholic pro-life activist from Rhode Island, encouraged the audience Wednesday at the 40 Days for Life kick-off supper at St. Mary Parish. He also gave reasons to hope and suggestions for action.
“We’d love to have everybody come and join us,” he said of participating in 40 Days for Life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics. “You don’t have to come for 40 days. Come for one hour. We love the women. We love the babies.” He said people will find it’s different from what they expected.
Mr. O’Connell, a husband and father, directs the Mother of Life pregnancy resource center in Providence, collaborates with other groups, and hosts “Life is God’s Greatest Gift,” a weekly cable television program in Rhode Island.
The international 40 Days for Life campaign to end abortion focuses on prayer, fasting, peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities, and educational outreach. It draws the time-frame from Scripture and is held twice a year, this time Sept. 26 – Nov. 4.
Locally it begins with a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Wednesday across from Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, 470 Pleasant St., Worcester, where abortions are performed. Prospective participants are encouraged to bring candles and invite someone else.
The idea is to have individuals and church groups vigiling where they have a legal right to be, across the street from Planned Parenthood, throughout the day for the 40 days. They are not expected to protest or do sidewalk counseling.
They can sign up for an hour or more on the website www.40daysforlife.com/worcester or by calling campaign director Pauline Morris at 508-425-3087 or church coordinator Lee Crowley at 508-887-1064.
Bishop McManus is to lead the rosary and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the vigil at 11 a.m. Oct. 18.
“We think we’re just a bunch of people,” said Mr. O’Connell. But when people vigil outside abortion clinics, those going in know God is in their midst, he said.
“The blessings we receive … are hard to describe,” he said. Listeners spoke of the value of having people outside abortion clinics.
Kathy Lake, who helps at the pro-life agency Problem Pregnancy of Worcester Inc., 495 Pleasant St., Worcester, told of a woman coming there when seeking Planned Parenthood, then going to other neighboring buildings before finding the abortion clinic. She said if pro-lifers had been outside the clinic then, they might have had another chance to talk to her.
“When we go home, we may have had a sense everything was lost,” said Patrick A. O’Donnell, of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Worcester. But he said vigilers serve as a reference point for women who have abortions to return to the truth of what happened.
“Forty years of abortion can wear down a hard-working pro-life activist,” Mr. O’Connell said in his talk. “Each deadly procedure is painful for us to think of, and 56 million abortions overwhelms the imagination of a person who believes that God is love. …
”Yet we cannot let this sadness dull our urgent desire to prevent every abortion, knowing that each life we fight for is as unique and unrepeatable as our own. …
“Where is a pro-lifer to find hope?” Mr. O’Connell asked. He spoke of earthly hopes for good in this life and of the hope God gives.
“All created things were brought into existence and intended to surround and bless the Son Incarnate, and bring him happiness. … We humans were made especially for Jesus, blessed among all creatures to be his loving companions forever. …
“This is our hope, and no one can take it away, or frustrate it. This sure vision should be an ever-present backdrop for all our lesser, natural hopes, including peace for the unborn. …
“Meanwhile, as we cling to this hope, we cannot help but desire to promote its complementary virtues: the true faith, charity, love of justice, respect for truth, honesty and a mature sense of responsibility. Because of these … we recognize abortion as a most serious evil…
“We are powerfully compelled to speak and act to defend these little ones, who have no voice, literally. It is our hope in God’s promised eternal destiny that inspires us to firmly invite those who commit or participate in abortions, or who approve of that heinous act, to change their hearts, to repent … and come to know the joy and wonder of the Son of God. … Similarly, we cannot refrain in all fairness from telling them of the everlasting sorrow that they would bring upon themselves if they stubbornly resist God’s illuminating grace in their life. We must strive to spread this message and achieve this goal by all righteous means, without hesitation or wavering.”
Mr. O’Connell said the guaranteed remedy for the increasing disbelief in the United States is belief in Jesus, which helps the believer to see as he does and weep at injustice.
“Opposition will continue, but this is your test, through which Christ will make you stronger and draw you closer to his Sacred Heart,” he told listeners. He said they want as many people as possible to embrace Christ.
He suggested getting involved in the respect life office and pregnancy counseling centers and arranging for speakers, and “at the family barbecue, don’t let anyone get away with being” pro-choice.
A meeting for parish pro-life representatives and those interested in starting such a ministry is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Blessed Sacrament Parish’s Phelan Center, behind the church at 555 Pleasant St., Worcester.
A 40 Days for Life Mass is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Nov. 2, in Blessed Sacrament Church. A eucharistic procession through the neighborhood is to follow.
– David O’Connell’s complete talk can be found below.
Hope in a Time of Disbelief
40 years of abortion can wear down a hard-working pro-life activist. Each deadly procedure is painful for us to think of, and fifty-six million abortions overwhelms the imagination of a person whose God is Love. In addition to all those tiny persons snuffed out before they could take their first breath of air, we are also aware of the similar number of women who carried their children to the death chambers, many of whom deeply regret their decisions, and the doctors and staff who committed those legal and evil acts for pay. The vision of so much pain and suffering on such a massive scale is shocking to those who know that the first rule of any civilized society should be to protect the weak and vulnerable from harm. Yet we cannot let this sadness dull our urgent desire to prevent every abortion, knowing that each life we fight for is as unique and unrepeatable as our own.
The incessant godlessness of the general media adds to our frustration. The message conveyed across innumerable screens on TV, internet tablets, phones and blackberries, and movies, with magazines and newspapers in lockstep, is a message in which personal pleasure and convenience are raised up as the modern gods to be adored. Hardship and sacrifice is evil in their sight, and must be avoided at all costs. In this Gospel of the World, your neighbor is here for your enjoyment, and he may be discarded or removed if that enjoyment ends.
Worst of all are those who call themselves Christian and pro-abortion. The complete impossibility of a person favoring a phony “right” to abortion, while also claiming to worship Christ, is illustrated by Jesus’ own words, “Unless you become like one of these children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Our Lord wants us to remember and return to our youngest innocence, not to destroy the innocent. The killing of unborn children is totally contrary to the will and character of the one true God Who creates life. Christ said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” Those who profess Christ and abortion are fooling only themselves and blaspheming our divine Creator.
The growth in disbelief in America is responsible for the legalization of abortion and so many other cultural diseases, all of which harm the individual person and the Common Good of our communities, and the nation itself. Such a widespread disregard for faith, and even disdain for God, which is the reason for our devastated condition, cannot lead us to despair for the future, but rather to pray to Him for continued discernment, courage and hope to march on in this battle between charity and callousness, between life and death.
Where is a pro-lifer to find hope, when an end to abortion does not appear in sight? We need first to remember what hope is, and the nature of this virtue, so we can know where to look for it. Our earthly hopes amount to the normal dreams and good desires that we all recognize: happy families, productive work, prosperity, peace, leisure time and retirement without poverty. In reality, these ideals are often interspersed with difficulties, but still we normally hold on to them tenaciously even in hard times. The desire for peace among pro-lifers includes peace for all, including the unborn, so that they may live and grow even as they deserve to.
But let us go first to the hope that God gives, our one true hope which is eternal, far above this world. We must not lose sight of it, so that our lesser hopes are kept in perspective. I remind you of this vision of supreme Hope, which is derived from the substance of our Faith. Consider the Life of God before creation, when nothing at all had yet been made, and God lived in His perfect joy. Think of the love the Father has for the Son, and Son for the Father. This infinite, purest devotion of each one for the other burned brightly, beyond even the greatest love we might find among men in all human history. Upon deciding to create the universe and all its diverse creatures, the Father in His Wisdom designed all creation primarily around His only Son, who would personally participate in this creation by taking on human nature and becoming a man. God’s divine and human Son was thus ordained to be the center and focus of everything that was made.
In the order of time and linear history, God first made heaven, then earth, and then light, etc. But according to His supreme intention and purpose, the Father designed the humanity of Jesus first. Speaking of Christ, the Spirit says in Colossians, “He is the image of the Invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation.” Indeed, all created things were brought into existence and intended to surround and bless the Son Incarnate, and bring Him happiness. The Spirit also said of Jesus Christ, “All things were created through Him and For Him.” And so, the universe, the earth, plants and animals, light and gravity, wind and seas, all these were lovingly made for God’s Holy Son. In fact, we humans were made especially for Jesus, blessed among all creatures to be his loving companions forever. Jesus is the reason that each of us is here, to accompany Him and share in His splendor forever.
This ultimate plan of God will be fulfilled one day: the day after Judgment Day. Then all the brothers and sisters of Christ will be united as one with Him in glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in everlasting happiness, fulfilling our destiny according to God’s original plan. This is our Hope, and no one can take it away, or frustrate it. This sure vision should be an ever-present backdrop for all our lesser, natural hopes, including peace for the unborn. Through God’s generosity, in this life we are given a taste of that expectant union of Christ and humanity, when we receive the presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls at baptism, and in the reception of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist.
Meanwhile, as we cling to this hope, we cannot help but desire to promote its complementary virtues: the true faith, charity, love of justice, respect for truth, honesty and a mature sense of responsibility. Because of these attributes, we recognize abortion as a most serious evil, committed against the most defenseless of our brethren. We are powerfully compelled to speak and act to defend these little ones, who have no voice, literally. It is our hope in God’s promised eternal destiny that inspires us to firmly invite those who commit or participate in abortions, or who approve that heinous act, to change their hearts, to repent of their careless ways, to cease being involved in or supporting that deadly industry, and come to know the joy and wonder of the Son of God. Similarly, we cannot refrain in all fairness from telling them of the everlasting sorrow they bring upon themselves if they stubbornly resist God’s illuminating grace in their life. We must strive to spread this message and achieve this goal by all righteous means, without hesitation or wavering. When we do so, you can be sure that our Lord will bless us with individual blessings and successes, with those wonderful turn-arounds when a mother sees our concern and devotion outside an abortion center, and changes her mind and chooses life for her baby. I think the angels in heaven sing louder than we do when a child is saved by our presence.
Finally, there is really only one guaranteed remedy for the increasing disbelief in our country: Belief in Jesus, which brings to the believer God’s gift of the eyes of Christ, to see as He does and to weep at injustice. In this way, they may come to see the truth that is so plain to us, and be filled with the love for our fellow man that Jesus infuses in our soul as we remain faithful to His Gospel of Life.
Remain steadfast, and hold onto your true and ultimate Hope of eternal joy with God, regardless of the pains and sufferings you see or experience yourselves. Opposition will continue, but this is your test, through which Christ will make you stronger and draw you closer to His Sacred Heart. We want abortion to end tomorrow, and by God’s will, may it happen! But if it does not, we will persevere in our witness to protect innocent life, and our demands for justice for unborn children. We will continue to speak out publicly, in the face of ridicule and harassment, because our love for God and hope in His promise will not permit us to be silent. Nor can we allow others to be lukewarm about abortion, but we must exhort them to the same fervor we possess for the pro-life cause.
What is our final purpose? That on that day after Judgment Day, when eternity begins, we want as many people as possible to embrace Christ, singing His praises with shouts of joy for the great love and supreme mercy He has shown us. That is what He deserves, and that is what we were made for. Let us now stay united together, and encourage each other throughout the days that are coming, with the ultimate message of Hope, welcoming God’s presence in our hearts in true faith now, and hoping to receive life eternal for those who persevere. Blessed be God in His angels and His saints, and may He bless us all now and during these 40 Days for Life!