I. Introduction: The Rosary Novena
Dear friends, today we begin a Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty. The Church throughout the United States, in many dioceses, parishes, and church-related organizations, is making heroic efforts to defend life and liberty. How grateful we are for those who work so hard to protect the lives of the unborn and vulnerable, who bear witness to the Gospel of life, in season and out of season. I think of those who have helped many, especially young people, to see how precious is God’s gift of human life and how deserving of protection! And how grateful we are for all those valiantly carrying forward the struggle to defend, protect, and foster religious liberty in our nation, for we recognize that both life and liberty are the gifts of God which speak in fundamental ways to our human dignity and are the basis for any society that seeks to be just and humane.
Those of you who have come to this beautiful place of worship and devotion, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – you are co-workers with the bishops in proclaiming and living the truth about human life and religious liberty; you are co-workers in the struggle to protect life and liberty. Those of you viewing this Mass and Pilgrimage on EWTN are part of this struggle – not a struggle carried on in anger or dismay, in ridicule or cynicism ... but rather an effort sustained by faith and prayer to build a culture of life and liberty out of love for God and for our neighbor, out of love for the nation and the world, especially the victims of violence and religious persecution in many countries.
That is why we so readily turn to the Virgin Mary at the outset of this Year of Faith and in this important time of decision so important for protecting both life & liberty. Mary, who believed and trusted so completely in what the Lord had promised, freely and lovingly cooperated with his plan of salvation, and so conceived God’s Eternal Son in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, bringing forth the author of life and salvation into the world. Yes, Mary will help us build a culture of life and liberty, and so for the next nine days, let us unite in begging her intercession. Let us ask her to pray for us, that we may be freed from our sins ... so that we may open our hearts ever more fully to the will of God, ... so that we may use our freedom to protect and defend human life, ... so that we may open the hearts of those around us to the Person of Christ who imparts to all that the Church teaches coherence, truth, beauty, and goodness.
II. Blessed Is She Who Believed
Perhaps the prayer that most readily comes to our lips is the Hail Mary ... Whether we think of it or not, when we say the Hail Mary we address the Blessed Mother just as the Angel Gabriel addressed her so long ago, when he announced to her that she would become the Mother of the Savior. The Virgin Mother was sinless from the first moment of her conception and she remained free of sin throughout her life. Her freedom from sin gave her the freedom to open her heart to God’s will, ... so much so that the Fathers of the Church are fond of saying that Mary conceived the Word of God in her heart by faith before she conceived the Word of God in her womb by the Holy Spirit.
Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, said as much when, at her doorstep, she greeted Mary as “the mother of my Lord!” – and added, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” Mary is full of grace and blessed among women because she believed as no other. The Blessed Mother did not only give intellectual assent to the Word of God, rather, for her faith meant entrusting her whole life to God’s promises and plans. When the angel told her she was to be the Mother of God, she made an act of faith that stands as the model for all believers for all times: “Let it be done to me according to your Word.” This is what it means to believe: to stand with Jesus, the Word made flesh, and to allow Him in the power of the Holy Spirit to shape our lives and our destiny.
Once we have radically opened ourselves to the Person of Christ, the truth and beauty of all the Church believes and teaches becomes clearer; and thus we become more prepared to re-propose all that the Church believes and teaches. We do this not only because we know intellectually that the Church’s teaching is true, coherent, and good for society, but above all because we ourselves have been changed, indeed, so transformed by the Gospel of life and freedom, that we are now not merely its proponents but its witnesses before the world.
III. Our Evangelizing Mission
Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus, and that is especially true when we pray the Rosary attentively and with a lively faith. Mary opens our eyes to the mysteries of Christ, to the Gospel, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit we too might stand with Christ. In the beautiful words of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: “Remembering our most holy, our most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, and all the Saints, let us entrust ourselves and each other, and all our life to Christ our God.”
The more we do so, the more equipped we are spiritually and intellectually, to build a culture of life and liberty ... First, to re-propose for people of all ages and all walks of life the beauty and value of human life from conception until natural death, a teaching which science and reason clearly confirm and which faith puts in sharpest in focus ... and then, to re-propose for our fellow citizens the gift of religious liberty, a liberty that is so fundamental because it pertains to our relationship to God, the author of life and liberty. To be sure, some secularists portray religious belief as irrational and harmful and seek to put strict limits on the ability of believers to live their faith. Encouraged by the example and prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, how courageously we must bear witness to the truth that religious freedom is not merely freedom of worship but the freedom to entrust our whole lives to God, to bring the faith we profess to our daily work and to the public square.
As we pray this Rosary Novena, may we find strength in those who stand with us in this struggle for life and liberty. One way we can do this is to text the word “freedom” or in Spanish, “libertad” to 377-377, and in this way become linked to a network of people dedicated to building a culture of life and freedom.
And may the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of God pray with us and for us, not only in this time of national decision but indeed in the weeks and years to come as we seek to protect human life, defend marriage as between one man & one woman so as to foster human life and to give children the best chance of flourishing, and as we seek to guard and foster the God-given gift of religious freedom.
Through the prayers of Mary, may God bless us and keep us in His love!