“In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenseless members” (John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, n.20).
Reflection: Some see laws permitting abortion as a minor flaw; the Pope is saying here that they change the very nature of the state.
Prayer: Lord, free us from the tyranny of governments that think they can dispose of human life. Amen.
“She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18).
Reflection: Today we celebrate the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen by God to be his own mother. In our day, we need Mary’s presence and example more than ever, because so many mothers are afraid to be mothers, and so many opinion-makers in our society have forgotten what motherhood really means.
Prayer: Mary, pray for all who are pregnant and afraid, especially those tempted to abort their child. Pray that they find new hope and strength to say “Yes” to God’s plan as you did. Amen.
Last night I was privileged to gather with a relatively small group of pro-life leaders and activists for the wake service of Nellie Gray. Board members of the March for Life, along with some pro-life leaders from Washington DC-based groups and elsewhere, gathered in a quiet Church of Saint Mary on 5th Street NW. This was Nellie’s parish, where she attended the Traditional Latin Mass. Some family members of Nellie were there, specifically three nieces and a nephew. They had come in from Texas and Georgia, and I very much enjoyed talking with them and reminiscing about Nellie.
I arrived at the Church at the same time the casket arrived, and we had a short initial prayer service at the door. One of the first people I saw there on the sidewalk was Dee Becker, who served for a long time as Vice-President of the March for Life and whom I have known and worked with for many years. Janet Morana and I had spoken with Dee on the phone not long after we got the news about Nellie, and Janet reminded her to make sure that Nellie’s distinctive red coat, which she wore at every March, was preserved. Sure enough, there next to her casket, on a coat stand, was the red coat (with a March for Life button pinned to it), red hat, and red scarf. It brought back many memories.
My friend and colleague Pastor Luke Robinson shared an exhortation during the evening service. He read the Life Principles, reminding us that this is the basis on which Nellie asked us to unite the pro-life movement. Moreover, he pointed out how Nellie made the Silent No More Awareness Campaign an integral aspect of the March, thereby representing her conviction that abortion did not only destroy the baby, but the baby’s parents as well.
Nellie and I had a number of very honest discussions about what would happen with the March for Life after she died. One concern of hers was paramount: that its nature and message be preserved. It is not simply a rally and march; it is an expression of the American people to their elected representatives that all law must conform to the Life Principles, without exception or compromise. It will take a while for all of us to grieve and readjust to Nellie’s absence. But I’m confident that her hope about the future of the March will be fulfilled.
Miss Nellie Gray, Founder of the March for Life, has died.“Nellie Gray and the March for Life had a most profound effect on my life,” said Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. In 1976, when he was a senior in high school, Father Pavone went to the March for Life with his mother and grandmother. Although he had been quietly considering the priesthood before that, the March cemented both his vocation and his passion for pro-life issues.
“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,” said Father Pavone, who has attended every march since his first one. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was ‘no exceptions.’ “
After his ordination in 1988, Father Pavone was assigned to a parish in Staten Island, NY. Every year he led a busload of parishioners to the March for Life. He took over as national director of Priests for Life in 1993, and the following year, attending the event in his new capacity, Miss Gray invited him to say the opening prayer at the March for Life Convention that annually precedes the March.
In 2008, the National Pro-Life Religious Council, which Father Pavone serves as president, presented Miss Gray with its Pro-Life Recognition Award. Later that day, Miss Gray tripped and fell on the stage at the opening rally for the March and had to be taken to the hospital with a head injury.
“As a colleague in national pro-life leadership, Nellie was always an inspiration to the rest of us,” Father Pavone said. “Her devotion was on display that same year, 2008, when, despite being in the hospital during the March for Life, she nevertheless was present at all all-day meeting of national leaders the very next morning, with a patch on her head.”
Every year since its founding in 2003, Miss Gray invited the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to stand on the rally stage holding signs that said, “I Regret My Abortion,” and she arranged for a larger group of post-abortive men and women from Silent No More to be in the vanguard of the March.
“We are so grateful that Nellie Gray shared our vision of Silent No More, and recognized that the women who have had abortions speak with unquestioned authority about the ways they have been harmed by this choice,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More. “Every year more women and men come to march and to share their testimony. Nellie Gray helped make that possible for us.”
Miss Gray is also credited for realizing that African-American pro-life leaders had to become more vocal and visible in the fight for life.
“Nellie Gray knew that abortion took a heavy toll from the black community and she urged us to lend our voices to the fight against this terrible injustice,” said Dr. Alveda King, director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life. “She was a visionary.”
Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministry and director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, said: “My heart is broken by the loss of Nellie Gray, a true pro-life hero and role model. At the same time I celebrate that Nellie is with our Lord who she loved so dearly. I have had the honor of working with Nellie for years and every time I March in DC in January, I know she will be watching over us and praying for us. Nellie Gray, I will miss you dearly.
The 2013 March for Life will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, and the 39th anniversary of the March.
“It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray’s heart every year, and every day,” Father Pavone noted. “In January we will march in her memory, in her honor, to save the unborn children to whom she dedicated her life.”
Abraham is our father in faith. His name was originally “Abram,” which means “exalted father.” But God changed his name to Abraham, meaning “father of many.” God tells him when he is ninety nine years old that he will bear a son and be the father of many nations! The stars in the sky don’t measure up to the number of descendants he will have. And it came to pass. His descendants include us, who inherit the same life of faith as he lived. This is a faith that affirms life despite being confronted with the power of death. In Christ we have seen the victory of life over death, and this faith enables us to declare that the power of abortion will come to an end and the culture of life will prevail.
In the MTV program about abortion called “No Easy Decision,” the couple struggling with their pregnancy talk about how they describe the child. The guy at one point calls the child a “thing,” and the woman gets upset. She says that while it is not a person, neither is it a thing. Then, pointing to her born child, she says that this is what it will result in. She says that her partner does not understand a woman’s perspective.
This exchange points to a key aspect of the Culture of Life: we stop looking at any human as a thing and start looking at every human as an equal. When the child in the womb is seen as equal in dignity, we are closer to finding the strength to do what is right.
In the first chapter of Luke, we read, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’”
This is a marvelous encounter of two unborn children, one of whom was the Lord and the other the one who would announce Him to the world. Both of them had been specially announced and named by angels who appeared to their parents. Clearly, God gives us a calling before our birth, and is the One who prepares us for that calling. He has a relationship with children in the womb, and became one Himself. Why, then, should we be afraid to defend them and speak up for them?
On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II was called from this world to the next.
John Paul II was the Pope of Life. He provided the Church and the world with profound reflections about the origins of human life in the loving mystery of the unity of man and woman. He wrote about love and responsibility, and he called the Church to understand that God’s choice comes before our choices.
He provided the pro-life movement with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life. In it, he declared that the attack on children in the womb is an attack on God Himself, and that when the state no longer protects these children, the disintegration of the state itself has begun.
May the example and teaching of John Paul II hasten the Culture of Life.
New York, NY — Fr. Frank, who became known as the “Terri Schiavo Priest” because of his involvement in the case back in 2005, issued the following statement in preparation for the seventh anniversary of her death on March 31:
“None of us who were in Terri’s room during her final weeks and hours will ever forget the intense spiritual and emotional impact of that experience. Terri’s death was not a dignified, peaceful, beautiful event, like the proponents of euthanasia want to paint it. Instead, it was violent, ugly, and offensive to the dignity that Terri and every human person, whether disabled or not, possesses.
“During Terri’s fight, some asked, ‘Why so much commotion over one person?’ Our answer is twofold. First, every single person is worth every effort it takes to stand up for them. And second, Terri’s fight is our fight. If she is not safe, neither are we. If she can be discarded, so can millions of others.
“That’s why I’m so grateful to see how God’s grace sustains Terri’s family to fight for all the other Terris of our world. That’s why our Priests for Life team is honored to have co-founded with them this annual International Day of Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo and All of our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters.
“As I said when I preached at Terri’s funeral Mass, let us take hold of the mission that is given to us now, to move forward with resolve, creativity, and boldness to protect human life and build a culture of life.”
For information on observing Terri’s Day on March 31, see TerrisDay.org.