“We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him” (Romans 6:9).
From the beginning of Christianity, his followers have proclaimed, “Christ is Risen!” and have thereby announced the end of the kingdom of death and the inauguration of the new People of Life, called to embrace all humanity into one family.
Because Jesus Christ is Life (see John 11:17-27; 14:1-6) and brings Life (see John 1:1-5; 10:7-15), His Gospel is the Gospel of Life. “The Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel” (Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n. 2)
The Church, called to invite and lead all people to salvation in Christ, proclaims and opens the door to that life which is eternal. The gift of eternal life, however, presupposes the natural gift of human life itself. In our day, this most basic good and most fundamental right is under unprecedented attack, particularly by abortion, which claims the most defenseless human victims, and in greater numbers than any other form of violence. It is the defense of the natural right to life that gives rise to the work of this organization.
The People of Life understand that the command to “love one another” knows of no exceptions, and that no Christian can be indifferent to attacks on human life. Nourished by the Biblical call to rescue the vulnerable and defend the defenseless, many have committed themselves to defend the lives of the poorest of the poor – the unborn – and of others whose very right to life is denied. Many, moreover, feel called by God to do this work of justice on a full-time basis.
“Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good” (EV, n.87). It is precisely that consistency that calls for a new Culture of Life, in which the unborn child is treated with the same care and protection as the born. Consistency, properly understood, recognizes that some rights are more fundamental than others, and that life itself is the condition for all the rest.
We seek to serve and protect the unborn, and to be a collective and visible voice for the voiceless millions who have been killed or are in danger of being killed by abortion. We call for the establishment of full recognition of their rights and protection of their lives. We do this fully realizing that without such recognition and protection, every noble effort to establish justice in the human community is undermined, every affirmation of human dignity is contradicted, and peace between families, communities and nations is threatened. As Pope Saint John Paul II declared in Christifideles Laici, “…[T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (n.38) and as
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion” (Speech to National Prayer Breakfast, Washington DC, February 3, 1994).
It stands to reason, then, that there will clergy and laity alike who will want to devote themselves to the great task of restoring recognition of the right to life where it is directly denied. This is a response to the call issued in Evangelium Vitae: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life” (EV, n.95).
Maintaining the focus of the mission
Because the theme of “life” is so fundamental, it is also very broad, and is therefore subject to the possibility of becoming diluted or over-extended. The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life are always to maintain a clear focus on the defense of the unborn.
We understand and present the defense of the unborn and the vulnerable in the context of justice. Missionaries will be eager, in their presentations and in their work, to overcome the false division between “social justice” work and “right to life” work, ever mindful that the right to life is the core of social justice and impels the whole Church toward works of social justice.
We foster esteem and active collaboration with other right to life organizations and with social justice ministries both within and outside the Church.
Aims of the Program
As a program of Priests for Life, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life share its vision and goals. We seek to give witness before the Church and the world to the priority of the right to life as the foundation of all other rights, and to the absolute claims to respect and protection that this right makes upon every individual and community in the human family.
In that context, we are committed:
- To bear public witness, in every sector of society, to the sanctity of each human life, and to defend human life against direct attacks by abortion;
- To be a prophetic voice within the Church, in order that pastoral programs, preaching, teaching, and the allocation of time and resources in every sector of the Church reflect the “urgent priority and attention” that the tragedy of abortion deserves (see US Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life, Introduction, 2001);
- To provide ongoing education, motivation, and resources for the clergy and all who minister in the Church, helping them to network with each other and equipping them with the necessary tools to preach and teach the pro-life message, to counsel those tempted to abort or who have aborted, and organize their people for pro-life activities;
- To serve the entire pro-life movement by offering spiritual support, guidance, teaching and direction.
In short, we serve the unborn child and the pro-life movement.
Because cultures and their laws change, the particular shape of the attacks on the right to life will change from generation to generation. However, as long as humanity exists, its youngest, most vulnerable members will always need care and protection, and those who bring them to birth will always need courage. Moreover, the Gospel of Christ will always be the Gospel of Life, and as direct attacks on the right to life take various forms throughout history, believers will always bear witness to the Gospel and summon others to respond to its demands as the needs of the time require.
Means to Achieve our Aims
These goals are accomplished by our presence in local communities to strengthen the work of the Church as it relates to the right to life, to serve the pro-life movement, and to reach out to the wider community by means of media and other forms of public outreach.
The spirituality of the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life is
The Word of Life, found in the pages of the Sacred Text, is to be a constant source of meditation and instruction. The Missionaries are to be intimately familiar with the pages of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, and are to always deepen their ability to explain to others the Biblical message about the sanctity of life, as it is found in every part of the Bible.
Counteracting the culture of death demands a prophetic spirituality. Our teaching is not our own, and like the prophets, we nurture the spirit of humility and awe that God should deign to speak His eternal word through mortal, sinful instruments like ourselves. The Gospel, always respectful of culture and expressing itself in diversified cultural contexts, likewise challenges and transforms culture. The prophet does not tell the future as much as he tells the present, that is, interprets for people what God says about what is going on in the world. We speak the prophetic word that challenges society to recognize the unborn as brothers and sisters, and to therefore repent of practices and policies that destroy them or put them at risk.
Because prophets are always persecuted, and because the abortion issue is particularly volatile, we foster a particular attentiveness to accepting the inevitable reality of persecution. Rooted in the Beatitudes, we seek the spirit of the apostles who "rejoiced at having been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name" (Acts 5:41).
We foster a liturgical spirituality that "thinks and feels" with the ebb and flow of the Church’s liturgical year. Our observance of liturgical seasons and feasts is carried out with a special attentiveness to the lessons those seasons and feasts present regarding the sanctity of life. Missionaries observes with special attention certain special feast days particularly associated with this theme.
The Eucharist is Life itself, and therefore our spirituality is centered on the Bread of Life. Missionaries will receive the Eucharist as frequently as possible, seek opportunities for adoration, and meditate frequently about the intimate links between our faith in the Eucharist and our commitment to the defense of life.
Missionaries share the deep longing of Christ that His disciples would be one, and we see in the Christian response to abortion one of the most practical and effective arenas for authentic ecumenical collaboration. (See Evangelium Vitae, n. 91; "Ut Unum Sint," n. 43) We strive at all times to think, speak, and work in ways that welcome our brothers and sisters of other denominations. We also work in an inter-religious spirit, joining with people of good will from all religions.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the model for all mothers, in her “Yes” to God and His plan for her life. Missionaries seek to learn from Mary, to draw close to her, and to present her to others as a source of inspiration.
In the light of our spirituality, there are certain key virtues that we seek to foster in ourselves and others. These include:
a. A spirit of joy.
Life is joyful, and defending life is a mission that should be carried out with joy. We seek to foster, in ourselves and others, a "joyful sorrow," that is, a spirit that is always mourning because of its keen awareness of the ongoing, unseen destruction of human life, and at the same time, is always serene and rejoicing that death has been conquered by Jesus Christ, who is Risen and is with us at all times.
b. A serene confidence.
We do not have to worry about the ultimate outcome of the battle for life. As Pope St. John Paul II declared, it has already been decided. We do, at the same time, have to work anxiously to be faithful to our own role in proclaiming, celebrating and serving that victory. Despite all outward appearances of the power of the culture of death, we foster, in ourselves and others, a supreme and uninterrupted confidence that the tools of grace with which God has equipped the People of Life are far more powerful and eternally victorious.
c. A deep compassion.
At times we all “abort” God’s will in our lives. We never look down on those who have committed the sin of abortion or who promote it. They are not the enemy, but rather are captive to the enemy. We seek to free them, as their brothers and sisters who are no strangers to temptation, error, and sin.
This compassion is translated into a constant and effective invitation to the healing and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and tireless efforts for the conversion of those who promote the culture of death. We also seek to assist those who have repented, including former abortionists, to re-integrate themselves into wholesome, life-giving activities and attitudes.
d. A radical solidarity
Pope St. John Paul II declared that the pro-life stance is one "of radical solidarity with the woman" (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.206-207). We do not seek to point fingers of condemnation, but rather to extend hands of mercy that lift out of despair those who are tempted to abort a child, or who endure the pain of having done so.
This radical solidarity stands at the same time with the child, in the awareness that it makes no sense to choose one against the other, but rather only to respond to mother and child by loving them both.
e. A strong courage
"The spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit," St. Paul tells Timothy (2Tim.1:7). Our work requires constant courage, which is nurtured at the feet of our Lord, in the pages of Scripture, in incessant prayer, and by the example of numerous saints and other historical figures who have fought against the injustices of their times.
f. A constant readiness for public witness.
We do not shrink from the public spotlight, which is often where we need to be in order to give voice to the voiceless and to reach the numbers of people we need to reach in the short time we have to reverse the culture of death. "Let your light shine before others," the Lord said, always reminding us that the glory goes to the Father (see Mt.5:16). Missionaries will form their spirit according to the plea of the Prophet, "Cry out full-throated and unsparingly; lift up your voice like a trumpet blast!" (Is.58:1).
g. A passion for justice.
The sacrifices needed to build a Culture of Life can only be sustained when there is a deep passion for justice. Christians believe in righteous anger, which was exhibited by the Lord and His saints in the face of evil. We are angry at what the culture of death does each day. We strive to submit our anger to the Holy Spirit of God, not asking Him to extinguish it but rather to channel it into a wholesome, energized passion which, always docile to the promptings of the Spirit and obedient to authority, sustains us in the task at hand.
The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life participate in four overarching spiritual disciplines as they live out their commitment. These disciplines are prayer, study, fellowship, and apostolic witness.
The priests of Priests for Life participate in the various activities outlined below, often together with lay Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, in response to invitations they receive from dioceses, parishes, and pro-life organizations.
Parish visits – At the invitation of the local pastor, we visit parishes to preach the pro-life message at Masses, parish missions, or other parish gatherings in liturgical or educational settings. We meet with, train and strengthen local parish ministers in the pro-life dimensions of their work.
Assistance to clergy – We provide spiritual and practical assistance to the clergy of all denominations in the pro-life dimensions of their ministry.
Training seminars – We present training seminars about all aspects of the pro-life movement to priests, deacons, seminarians, laity, and ecumenical audiences.
Retreats – We offer pro-life retreats, which give participants an opportunity to see in their relationship with God the call to defend life, and to root all their pro-life activities in their relationship with God.
Presence at ministerial conferences – We are present, as members, participants, and exhibitors, at conferences at which specialists in different aspects of Church life and ministry gather. Our presence provides pro-life resources, networking and education to them.
Pro-life events – We participate in the events of local, national, and international pro-life organizations and Churches. We are invited to speak and pray at their conventions, banquets, seminars, prayer vigils, and abortion mill protests, to strategize with or minister to their members, and to provide a clerical presence where it is lacking.
Alternatives to Abortion and Healing After Abortion – We foster, promote, and interact with the many ministries, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, that provide alternatives to abortion and healing after abortion. We assist the Churches to connect their congregations with such resources. Our priests assist directly in training and carrying out counseling both before and after abortion, and in conducting retreats for those wounded by abortion, including all the family members of the aborted child. We also minister to medical personnel and their assistants who previously performed the abortion procedure and have repented.
Media activity – We produce and appear on radio and television broadcasts for local, national, and international media outlets to articulate the pro-life message and comment upon developments relevant to it.
Fostering political responsibility – Through non-partisan activities, we assist Churches and pro-life organizations to mobilize, equip, and educate their people to carry out their political responsibilities. This includes such activities as voter registration, distribution of non-partisan voter guides, and get-out-the-vote drives.
Schools – We speak at schools of every level to deliver the pro-life message to students and to equip and encourage the faculty and administration in this dimension of their work.
Participation in leaders’ meetings – On a local, national, and international level, we participate in various meetings with leaders of all religious, political, and cultural backgrounds to develop strategy for the pro-life movement.
Individual counseling of members in government, media, and other leadership roles – We hold personal and confidential meetings with leaders to discuss their attitudes and actions regarding the right to life, and provide important opportunities for conversion, guidance, and encouragement.
Dialogue – We foster respectful dialogue with those who promote the Culture of Death, in such a way that, without compromising our message, we can enable them to realize that they too share in the dignity proper to every human life. By rediscovering their own dignity, they may be able to rediscover that of the unborn child.
We also promote that dialogue of salvation which the Church carries out with all who do not embrace the Christian faith or any faith at all. Many people of good will share our concern about the right to life, and we collaborate actively with them in its defense.
Liturgy and Prayer
Liturgical seasons and feasts
A pro-life spirituality pays special attention to the ways in which the seasons and feasts of the Church calendar shed light on and strengthen our commitment to the sanctity of human life. There are certain liturgical days which are particularly suited to our focus on the centrality of the gift of life, and its special commitment to the unborn. We assist others to study the meaning of these feasts and celebrate them in their local communities with a pro-life focus.
Easter, the primary feast day for the entire Church, is especially appropriate as the primary feast day, because it is the Day of the Victory of Life.
The Annunciation (March 25) is the feast on which God became an unborn child, thus sanctifying all life in the womb as he sanctified it at every stage. In the same manner, we celebrate Christmas with a deep awareness that it is the feast of the Incarnation, and therefore inherently proclaims the truth of the sanctity of all human life.
The Immaculate Conception (December 8) likewise carries the clear message of God’s relationship with human life at its earliest stages.
The Holy Family is celebrated shortly after Christmas. The family is the sanctuary of life, and we draw from this feast a renewed commitment to defend and promote strong families.
St. Joseph (March 19), the “Just Man,” who had the role of protecting the Holy Family, embodies the example for all fathers to follow. The lack of willingness of the father of an unborn child is frequently the cause of abortion. Honoring St. Joseph and teaching the faithful his example can inspire men to carry out their proper role in defending life.
The Holy Innocents are honored every December 28, and many pro-life activists will mark this day with special memorials to the countless innocents slain by abortion.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image brought about an end to the practice of human sacrifice among the Aztecs, is the Patroness of the Unborn. On her feast day, December 12, we commend to her care all unborn children and those who defend them.
Other particularly significant feasts on the calendar of saints include:
April 13 – St. Margaret of Castello, OP, Patron of the Unwanted
April 28 – St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who gave her life for her unborn child. Patron of Mothers and Physicians.
September 5 – St. Teresa of Calcutta
October 5 – St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, Patron Saint of Mercy, who was given the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to pray in particular in reparation for abortion.
October 16 – St. Gerard Majella, Patron Saint of Pregnant Mothers and of Childbirth.
In the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, pro-lifers should keep in mind the historical and intrinsic connection between this devotion and the need to invoke God’s mercy for the sin of abortion, as revealed in the Diary of St. Faustina. It is also helpful to keep in mind the special Apostolic Blessing of Pope St. John Paul II for those who say the chaplet for this particular intention.
In their daily prayers and Masses, members should keep in their intentions the benefactors of Priests for Life and the many prayer intentions that are sent in from the general public, especially those related to women tempted to abort, to families who have lost children to abortion, and to aborted babies themselves.
Our priests offer Mass regularly for the intention of an end to abortion and euthanasia, as well as for all our Missionaries and others who collaborate with us.
Study and Reading
The teachings that shape our life and mission come above all from the Word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition, and safeguarded and taught by the Magisterium of the Church. Among the documents of the Magisterium, we give primary emphasis to Pope Saint John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), for which we are named. We see Pope Saint John Paul II as the Pope of Life, and his encyclical, as well as the witness of his life, lay out the contours of our mission and spirituality.
The teachings and example of St. Teresa of Calcutta, a strong voice for the unborn and vulnerable, are a special source of instruction and inspiration for us. In her meetings with Frank Pavone, Mother Teresa provided personal input and encouragement to the work of Priests for Life.
We also study and promote the educational materials provided by Frank Pavone and his pastoral team.
We gather for our library all materials published on the topic of abortion by those who oppose it and by those who support it, and study this material. We also gather and make available to the public any pro-life statements by bishops’ conferences or individual bishops anywhere in the world.
Compatibility with Other Programs
The training in pro-life spirituality of the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life does not exclude a person from pursuing other training programs in spirituality, nor from joining various types of associations in which they would make other commitments, provided they do not contradict the pro-life stance.
The Structure of the Association within the Body of Christ
In Communion with the Church
Priests for Life and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life do not seek to replace existing structures in the Church or the wider society that are engaged in the pro-life mission, but rather to infuse them with renewed vigor and effectiveness. Where it is appropriate, we will assist in the building of local efforts and the training of those who carry out those efforts.
There are many priests, deacons and laity in the Church who do pro-life work. Our mission is neither to take their work from them nor to claim that we do it better, but rather to encourage them in that work and help it to flourish. For us, however, pro-life work is not merely an assignment or one aspect of apostolic work. It is, rather, a vocation within a vocation. And we live it out in unity with all those committed to the same mission around the nation and throughout the world.
We carry out our work in collaboration with local dioceses, pro-life leaders, organizations of all kinds, Christians of other denominations, believers of non-Christian religions, and all people of good will.
We provide to local efforts a national perspective, and the benefit of our experience in developing strategies and networking with all the existing resources of the pro-life movement. We bring these new resources to local communities and organizations, so that a fruitful process of dialogue, mutual learning and encouragement, and growth in effectiveness may occur.
Public Prayer of Commitment
Once the program of study and training in the teachings and practices of this pro-life spirituality are completed, and the individual wants to commit him or herself to living it, that commitment is expressed publicly. Doing so emphasizes the "fellowship" dimension of this spirituality, in which the Missionary is committed to public witness to life and also seeks and receives the encouragement of the wider community of believers and the pro-life movement.
The commitment can be carried out at a public Mass, with the appropriate permission of the pastor, or in a more private -- though communal -- setting.
The promises focus on
-- the commitment to the defense of the right to life, and
-- union with others who live the same spirituality, and with the wider pro-life movement.
The following prayer is said publicly when one is ready to commit to live as a Missionary of the Gospel of Life:
"God our Father, Creator of all Life, Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, and Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, I come into your presence today and in the presence of my fellow believers, and I commit myself to live out the pro-life spirituality of the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. I commit myself to defend the children in the womb, my brothers and sisters whose right to life is under direct attack, and to be for the unborn the voice they do not have. In defending them, I seek always to grow closer to You, O God, in all things, and to collaborate with other Missionaries of the Gospel of Life and with the wider pro-life movement, as my duties allow. I am confident that the Victory of Life has already been won through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and that as the Church proclaims, celebrates, and serves the Gospel of Life, Christ will transform the Culture of Death into the Culture of Life, for he lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen."