TORRINGTON - Women throughout Wyoming heard a pro-life message and learned a way of deepening their faith called Lectio Divina during the annual Spring Deanery Tour that spanned the diocese.
The tour for the Wyoming Council of Catholic Women ended on March 23 with nearly 200 women meeting at the St. Rose of Lima Church in Torrington. The tour featured Bishop David Ricken and Father Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life. Along the way, priests also had a chance to meet with Father Pavone for training on how to be more active in pro-life issues.
The women also learned about a new opportunity to serve in a pro-life cause, through Gabriel's Closet, a Priests for Life program to counsel and provide layette items for unwed mothers. (See related column on page 19.)
"We are all called to do something about the tragedy of abortion," Pavone told the women. "This is the largest single act of violence and the largest group of victims, with an abortion being performed every 20 seconds.
"We are winning and people are coming from pro-abortion to pro-life; they are not going the other way," he told the women.
In a call to action, he said that while praying for an end to abortion is good, "prayer is not an alternative to action."
He said when we pray the Our Father and say "thy will be done," we need to realize that part of God's will is that it will be done through individuals.
He said as one prays about an end to abortion, prayer should include the victims, mothers who get abortions because they feel no freedom or choice, for fathers, those who have had abortions, for judges and politicians, and for the medical community "hijacked by the pro-choice community and using hard-earned medical skills to end life, rather than support life."
He said people should pray that lawmakers recognize their responsibility to write legitimate laws based on the authentic validity of God's laws; that priests preach the sanctity of life "to be pastoral and clear in their preaching, not to hold back on truth, that nothing get in the way of preaching the word of God.
He also suggested that an end to abortion be brought up in any prayer context, whether it is small groups, Holy Hours or during rosaries.
"When we are done in prayer, we should not feel rested, we should feel restless, not that we have done our duty, but that we have been given our duty," Pavone said.
Pavone was ordained a priest in 1988 by Cardinal John O'Connor, and by 1993 he received permission to become the national director for Priests for Life. Pavone told the story of his involvement in bringing Norma McCorvey - the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade - into the Catholic Church. He said the story of how McCorvey changed from an unwitting tool for the pro-abortionists to Christianity through the love and acceptance shown to her by pro-life activists indicates how Christian love can change lives.
"There is a difference between thinking what a person does is evil and that the person is evil," he said. "The dignity of a person doesn't depend on their size, dependency, or how they look; it also doesn't depend on whether they have the wrong ideas."
Pavone frequently appears on EWTN and has addressed the House of Representatives Pro-Life Lobby, along with speaking to priests in India at the invitation of Mother Teresa. He speaks at schools, connects with people through the Internet, and provided a wealth of written material and tapes for those at the meeting.
Through his examples of bringing prayer to abortionists, he told the group that abortionists participate in abortion because they lack a respect for their own lives.
"The only way many will come to a pro-life position is when they recognize the dignity of their own lives," he said. He works with a group of former abortion providers, called The Prodigal Project, who are now reaching out to abortionists, and who also are apologizing to former patients for the abortion.
Following Father Pavone's talk. Bishop Ricken provided an experiential seminar on Lectio Divina, a process of praying the Bible.
"The Bible is the living word of God," he said. "The words will strike you and ask you to pay attention." In the Lectio, people take the time to pay attention to the words of God.
There are four basic stages to Lectio Divina, lectio or reading, meditatio or meditation, oratio or prayer, and contemplatio or contemplation.
In our modem world of hurry, work and distractions, he said it is important to take quiet time to focus on God. He said to handle internal distractions by "just noticing them, then let them go out; don't fight them; just let it go."
Bishop Ricken said in the first stage, people should calmly and carefully read the daily verses. He recommended coordinating the private reading with the liturgical cycle of Sunday readings, saying it would increase one's understanding of the readings and homily.
In the meditation phase, he suggested a method to "picture yourself as one of the people in the story. It is an incredibly powerful way of using the imagination."
He also suggested writing down a scripture verse and keeping it with you, looking at it during the day. "That way, work becomes permeated with prayer and prayer is our work."
In the prayer portion, Bishop Ricken said it is time to speak to God about the reading or experience in meditation. A prayer might include "help me to see if there are people I need to bring healing to," after a daily reading about healing. Then, listen.
"God will speak in different ways, depending on your state of life and the ways you listen," he said. "We need to spend time with our best friend - Christ our Lord."
In the contemplation session he said, "we rest with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit in a restful and peaceful way."
The most important portion of the Lectio is not keeping each phase to 10 minutes, or keeping the stages in order - the most important is fidelity to the prayer. "If you get distracted, just go back to the text," he advised.
"People have trouble letting God love them, just be receptive and let God love you," he said. Part of the afternoon session included a chance to try the Lectio and learn to develop an improved relationship with God.
"To be ignorant of the sacred scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ," he said.