Kathryn Jean Lopez Receives the 2011 Bioethics Defense Fund Witness for Life Award

Roe on the Edge of 40: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
Remarks by Kathryn Jean Lopez upon receiving the BDF Witness for Life Award

November 18, 2011, Scottsdale, AZ — If I had to give my remarks tonight a title, an appropriate one might be: “Roe on the Edge of 40: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times.” Almost 40 years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, lives have ended. Some people probably never think about that. Some other people can’t help but think about it, some suffocated by regret. Others selflessly motivated to bring this evil to its end. Perversely, pain has flourished. And men and women have not.

And yet there are Signs of Hope. A phrase, of course, I use on purpose. But more on that shortly.

I’m so humbled and delighted to be here tonight because I believe the Bioethics Defense Fund is a beacon in the midst of this culture of death, building something very different. BDF is part of the ongoing reconstruction in a culture gradually realizing it’s so over the sexual revolution. All of you here tonight are an essential part of the New Evangelization. And we’re actually living among so many young people, especially, wanting more. I meet them everywhere. World Youth Day is but a postcard — they are meeting every Friday on Sunset Boulevard. I’ve been there. They’re gathering in SoHo in Lower Manhattan talking about the Theology of the Body. They’re wanting what is good, knowing that they have the God-given-freedom to reach for it, and to love others enough to want to share it. BDF builds bridges to these people, to a world way beyond this room or the self-conscious pro-life movement. But more on all that shortly, too.

By virtue of my job at National Review – column writing and blogging and commissioning, I digest a lot of media. And so I come to Arizona to tell you that we hit an important media milestone this month. A little noticed one. Truth be told, I haven’t even written about it. In the media world we’d call what I’m about to say a Bioethics Defense Fund exclusive!

The milestone I’d like to mark for history tonight was a piece in the Washington Post by a reporter named Lisa Miller. It profiled some D.C.-area based pro-life groups, noting the apparently remarkable fact that their groups had not only women but also mothers at their helms.

Miller, whose work I have followed a bit over the years as, ironically, a religion reporter –  can be very conventionally tone-deaf to Christianity. But this piece was different. By article’s end Ms. Miller relayed a little advice to her compatriots: “Abortion rights activists, take note,” she wrote. “These women represent a major strategic shift in the abortion war, and not just because they are generally more likable than the old, white fathers of the antiabortion movement . . . ”

Put aside, for a moment, her slights there to the late Bernard Nathanson, whose funeral I attended this year, among so many other loving and courageous men. I didn’t say the article was perfect!

She goes on to talk about these women as being real people – I’m really not exaggerating. Like Dorinda Bordlee, they juggle practices and plays and all their busy family schedules like normal women all around the country. They may want to protect unborn babies but they are otherwise just like everyone else!! Beware! These women are harder to caricature, was the essence of the article.  The piece goes on to run down their college and even graduate degrees, obtained at reputable mainstream schools. Apparently higher ed can’t brainwash us all!

Miller, of course, does go on to say that: other “Americans see what these women’s lives don’t show — that there are imaginable occasions when a pregnancy is not, in fact, a blessing. And that we might serve the world equally well by supporting policies that care for the children who live here already.”

That of course, is what friends of mine have called a “Lazy Slander.”

Spend an afternoon with the Sisters of Life at their Visitation convent in my native New York where they will answer the phone and take in anyone, walking them through not only pregnancy but giving them the skills and modeling a faith for motherhood, with a network of helpers ready to do just that throughout their lives beyond life with the Sisters. And you know others who are true angels to mothers in need closer to home. They are modeling a new feminist revolution, of the kind John Paul II wrote about. The pro-life movement, and the Catholic Church in a particular way, though far from exclusively, are at the forefront of providing real help.

As the Signs of Hope legislation that is law in Louisiana now thanks to the work of the Bioethics Defense Fund helps make known, there are men and women who dedicate their lives to saving lives.  They know the difficulties. Some of them have faced unplanned and challenging pregnancies themselves. Some of them made the wrong choice, feeling they had no other choice. Some of them have welcomed life, straining finances, relationships, jobs, and even life itself. After the legislation was signed into law in Louisiana, Dorinda recalled to me some of her motherly motivation behind drafting the legislation: “I wanted women to know that there are heroic and selfless people in the pro-life movement who are there for them.” Dorinda and Nik and the Bioethics Defense Fund are something special. But mercifully they are far from alone in offering help.

And that Lisa Miller piece is a significant one, in so far as it is an indicator of something that’s happening politically and culturally — and I do believe it is. Ladies and gentleman, the advocates of legal abortion are nervous. They are nervous and even a bit desperate. I think you hear the desperation in the “war against women!” cries in response to every pro-life political move on their radar lately. From the House voting to defund Planned Parenthood to the Mississippi personhood vote this past Election Day.

It’s the same kind of alarmism we heard from Planned Parenthood in Louisiana in response to that informed-consent legislation. Letting a woman who finds herself in an abortion clinic know, literally, “You are not alone.” was said to be both “condescending” and “offensive.”

That argument lost the day to a clear aid to actual choice.

I’d like to talk for a few brief minutes about the former governor of Alaska. Whatever you might think of her oped in the Wall Street Journal today, her political prospects, or her outdoors reality show, Sarah Palin marked an important moment in American politics, ushering in a sea change for the conventional understanding of a woman in politics.

I’m grateful to Sarah Palin. I’m grateful that because of her entrance on the national scene people know that Americans eliminate upwards of 90 percent of children they know will be born with Down syndrome. It became a regular statistic on talking heads shows after she was tapped by John McCain to be his running mate. From that moment I was grateful. I was grateful that she was not among those statistics, that she did not permit her son to become one of those statistics, and by that witness, she was helping our nation confront those statistics.

And if you will permit me for a moment, I want to read from a piece that I wrote in July of 2008, about a month before Sarah Palin became a household name. The words aren’t from me, they’re from a Trig-welcoming-committee page on the then-governor website. Americans from across the nation were congratulating her and her husband on the birth of her son, in some very personal ways.

Alice from Wadsworth, Ohio, wrote: “Congratulations on your new baby. You will enjoy the differences this child has from other children. Our kids really shine when participating in sports, and sports has so much to teach all of us. My ‘baby’ is 35, and I’m still enjoying watching him achieve and grow.”

A father from Abilene, Texas, wrote lovingly:

Dear Governor Palin, As a parent of a 2 year old with Down syndrome, I want to express my heartfelt congratulations on the birth of your special son. I remember all of the reservations and fears that my wife and I had the first days of his life. We had a lot to learn. Archer continues to be a great joy in our lives. He IS much more work than our other 2 children but it is a labor of love, NOT a burden. He has changed our lives in ways we would have never predicted. He has made me a better, kinder, more tolerant man. My children have benefited in ways that are indescribable. I know they will never act as I did as a child. I know they will defend the weakest among them. In short, Archer is a celebrity in Abilene, Texas. He brings joy to everyone that comes in contact with him. I know now that these children are put here for a specific reason by God. It is so evident to me that His hand is at work when I look at their faces and see all of the similarities. Children and adults with Down syndrome look like brothers and sisters and react that way when meeting for the first time. How could that NOT be by design. You and your family are truly blessed to have the privilege of raising this child. What ever feelings or concerns you and your family have had, others have had the same ones and you all are not alone. You are beginning a most rewarding journey that will be filled with challenges, but mostly joy. I always took for granted that our kids would learn to walk and talk. Archer has shown me what hard work it really is. All of these milestones aren’t merely footnotes in his life, they are truly accomplishments that are worthy of celebration. Rest assured that your boy [will] make them also with your help. But we learned that they do it on their timeline, not ours and so will you. Again, congratulations on the birth of your son. I wouldn’t trade or change my boy for anything, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

You get the idea.

“Joy.”

“Gift.”

“Blessing.”

“Love.”

“Amazing.”

In the midst of all kinds of issues and debates, foreign and domestic, a woman who has become a lightening rod, has also been an opportunity for families to share their joy and a true love for life, with all its surprises and Crosses.

I realize politics is a lot more complicated than that. But there is grace, too, in politics. Policy and personalities touch lives. Inspire. Provide morale boosts. I think that’s part of the story of Sarah Palin on the national scene.

Another part of the story of Sarah Palin on the national scene has to do with that Mamma Grizzly phrase she made even an urbanite like me start using. You see, I was born and raised in Chelsea, Manhattan. When I hear Sarah Palin talk about Mamma Grizzlies, she might as well be talking about a Hannah Barbara cartoon character. But, still, I know the creature of which she speaks.

The entrance of Sarah Palin on the national scene made it impossible for the media to ignore that women in politics do not have to be promoted by EMILY’s List — which promotes proponents of legal abortion for office — but can be supported by the prolife Susan B. Anthony List.  Women in politics do not have to come from a pro-choice cookie-cutter mold. They can more honestly represent American women. They can more honestly represent America.

Carl Anderson put together a handy book last year, called Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media. In it, Anderson, the grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, talks about the “enormous consensus” on the issue of abortion. Surveys done for the Knights by the Marist Poll found that eight out of ten Americans “favor restrictions that would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy at most.” Additionally, Anderson notes that “53 percent of Americans would limit abortion to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a mother — or would not allow it at all. Among women, the number is even higher — 55 percent.”

As we’ve seen in some of the bold breeze of the “new feminists” in politics lately, being a woman in politics doesn’t mean having to deny one’s motherly, life-protecting nature, which, frankly, is what women in politics too often do, maybe feel like they need to do, maybe have been raised and schooled to do, at this point.

Some called 2010 the  “The Year of the Conservative Woman.” Now some of the pro-life women won. Some of them lost. But I think something important happened: I think that 2010 was the year the feminist lie was officially up. 2010 was the year that the media was forced to start to recognize it. It was the year when they couldn’t quite marginalize, couldn’t quite treat the conservative female as an anomaly or freak of nature

You can polarize one woman. You can say she’s an anomaly from Alaska. But after a while, you see Cathy McMorris Rogers from Washington and Anne Marie Buerkle from New York and Martha Roby from Alabama or a Minnesota congresswoman running for president named Michele Bachmann and the list goes on and it becomes harder to claim that the women’s vote is for legal abortion.  The truth becomes hard to gloss over or ignore.

Did I mention that I’m delighted we no longer have a woman speaker of the House? I’m delighted we have a male speaker of the House who believes that, as John Boehner has written – welcoming Marchers for Life to Washington this past January:  “Americans love life as much as we love freedom.  These two founding principles are intertwined and form the basis of our national character.  Without respect for life, freedom is in jeopardy.”

One of the very feminine – very sisterly, very motherly — things pro-legal-abortion feminists do is promote one another. While I never want to fall into their gender-counting ways, we ought to learn from that. It’s important to encourage people. It’s important to encourage the good in people. It’s important to say thank you. Which is why I mention Boehner and Palin, among others.

And in keeping with the personal nature of Sarah Palin’s most important gift to our politics, I want to talk for a moment about a crying nun. Because I think part of why the so-called pro-choice movement is nervous is her tears – as we look in a mirror, or outside a window —  whether they know it or not.

I’m sure some of you have read Unplanned, the book by Abby Johnson, the former Texas Planned Parenthood director. If you have, you may recall, she writes about a weeping nun.

She was “small, bubbly, and joyful. She had a radiant smile . . . ” with a “sweet” face, Johnson writes. She was young and Sound of Music–like.

And yet, she wept.

She was a nun — in full habit. Standing outside a Planned Parenthood clinic that Abby Johnson was running in Texas.

The first day Johnson and her staff saw her, they “gawked” through the clinic window. It was nearly 100 degrees, and there she was “in a heavy, dark brown habit that swept to the ground.” Johnson, in the book, remembers: “Her head and hair were completely covered so that only her face showed, a face lifted toward heaven, eyes closed, clearly praying.”

And then a “client” left the clinic: a woman who had just had an abortion.

The religious sister “fell to her knees and wept with such grief . . . that I couldn’t help but think to myself, she feels something far deeper than I ever will . . . this grief at knowing that client had an abortion.” Sister Marie Bernadette would be back, every week, on the days the clinic performed abortions. And, Johnson writes, “We could continue to see that she was deeply and personally grieved by abortions.”

The weeping sister affected Johnson: “I tried to shake it off but couldn’t get past the fact that a nun was grieving over what was happening inside my clinic.” Johnson asked herself, “How many other people cry outside my workplace because of the work I am doing?”

And she was not alone in her reaction. Writing about the first encounter of a spiritual mother, Johnson writes, “A silence fell over us for a time.” It was “as if we all felt embarrassed or ashamed. We tried to get back to work, but every few minutes someone would look out the window and offer an update on the sister, like, ‘She’s still weeping,’ or, ‘Look, one of the pro-lifers is consoling her now.’ It was agony just knowing she was out there.”

“The truth was, the sister’s simple, prayerful presence bothered most of us, Catholic, ex-Catholic, Protestant, and unchurched alike,” Johnson recalls, “as she somehow represented our consciences.”

The sister was in agony.

Of course she was.

I relayed the story in a column I wrote earlier this year for my syndicate titled “Planned Parenthood’s Misery Index.” At the time, we were debating not only Planned Parenthood’s federal funding in Washington but a relatively modest but fundamental  funding bill before Congress to keep taxpayer money away from abortion, part of the House Republicans’ Pledge to America that they ran on in the fall of 2010. Modest and yet about it New Jersey Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg ranted: “If they had their way, the reproductive rights of American women would be tossed away and it sounds to me like a Third World country that’s requiring women to wear head shawls to cover their faces even if they don’t want to do it.”. There is actually currently no universal, permanent prohibition on federal taxpayer funding of abortion. The bill would change that. And I’m not going in for burqa measurements because of it. And yet the freshman senator from Connecticut – and he and his neighbor Lautenberg were far from alone – insisted it was an “assault” on women. Ironically all it would do is make abortion-advocates talking points about no federal funding of abortion being a reality true.

In my column I wrote: “I don’t know Sr. Marie Bernadette, but I know why she cries. Because it’s miserable, our rhetoric and our reality.”

I relay the story tonight because you never know who is watching from a window or listening for that little glimpse of truth they needed to walk through a door. Perhaps to a crisis-pregnancy center. Perhaps to a confessional.

Abby Johnson’s story is the story of a woman confronting the reality she had long been denying. She tells of the all-too-clear sonogram-guided abortion that was her breaking point at Planned Parenthood. Reflecting on her time there she would admit: There was the “incredible irony” that, as Johnson puts it, “I had a career in educating women about contraception” and yet three times “conceived while using contraceptives.” It was the third pregnancy when she kept her child, Grace.

As Johnson writes, “From my first days at Planned Parenthood, I’d told myself I was there to decrease abortions. Now, the absurdity of that logic — or lack of logic — screamed at me. Not only had I been a leader in abortion efforts here in Texas, lobbying at the capitol, repeating clever talking points to the media, and running an abortion clinic, I’d even aborted two of my own children.”

When George Mason University law professor Helen Alvare spoke at a congressional hearing in support of the Protect Life Act, that funding bill I mentioned earlier, she talked about “an emerging scientific and cultural awareness that abortion is not health care,” noting that even “many abortion providers and advocates of legal abortion” call it “killing.” And that is “associated with women’s ‘immiseration,’ and not their flourishing.” Alvaré continued:  “According to leading scholars, it certainly appears that more easily available abortion has led to expectations of more uncommitted sexual encounters — a situation which itself contradicts women’s demonstrated preferences — and thereby to more sexually transmitted infections, more nonmarital pregnancies and births, and more abortions.”

What Alvare was talking about is what Nikolas Nikas and Dorinda Bordlee talk about: addressing the whole woman, addressing men and women, approaching women – and men — in a more holistic way than the sexual and feminist revolutions have allowed. And the tremendously good news is that across the country I meet young men and women – some of the most beautiful, talented, well-educated, energetic young people in their teens and twenties – who want something better than the lies of the last few decades.

But there are also remarkable things that find their way to headlines sometimes. Like the cover of New York Magazine recently. The cover line was: “Fifty Years Ago, The Pill Ushered In a New Era of Sexual Freedom. It Might Have Created a Fertility Crisis as Well.” The piece was remarkably candid about how the pill has hurt women. It inadvertently echoed the teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s because it actually makes sense. And we’re not going to be practically able to fully embrace a culture of life until we begin to more fully respect human sexuality and encourage our children and young people to do the same. To expect more of themselves and their relationships. To want more. And to see that commonsense healthy attitude reflected in the culture around them. And to meet our friends and family and political opponents where they are at, sometimes partially open to common sense and even more transforming Truth.

As evidenced by my introduction and that Miller piece I still haven’t managed to tweet about –trust me when I say I am not worthy of this award. There’s plenty I don’t get to writing about that I should. There’s so much more I could realistically do that I don’t. I receive this not so much as an accolade but as a challenge. In gratitude for all those, many of you hear tonight, who truly do witness to life in your daily labors.

And in the spirit of being challenged, I am so grateful for the opportunity to revisit one of Pope John Paul II’s visits to the United States. As you are reminded in your programs tonight, when Blessed JPII came here in 1997, he reminded us: “The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person.”

The quote – the challenge – reminds me of another brave visitor who held a mirror up in front of us during her unforgettable National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. And it wasn’t just about the unborn she spoke, but a whole culture that seems to have forgotten the dignity of human life in our foolish quest to avoid the Cross. In Washington, D.C., in front of Bill and Hillary Clinton and all said:

I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home where they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them into an institution and forgotten them – maybe. I saw that in that home these old people had everything – good food, comfort- able place, television, everything, but everyone was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single one with a smile on the face. I turned to Sister and I asked: “Why do these people who have every comfort here, why are they all looking toward the door? Why are they not smiling?”

I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the dying ones smile.

And Sister said: “This is the way it is nearly every day. They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten.” And see, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we there to be with them, or do we merely put them in the care of others? Are we willing to give until it hurts in order to be with our families, or do we put our own interests first? These are the questions we must ask ourselves, especially as we begin this year of the family. We must remember that love begins at home and we must also remember that “the future of humanity passes through the family.”

I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it like that, when those in the West have so many more things than those in the East? And the answer was: “Because there is no one in the family to receive them.” Our children depend on us for everything – their health, their nutrition, their security, their coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to us with trust, hope and expectation. But often father and mother are so busy they have no time for their children, or perhaps they are not even married or have given up on their marriage. So the children go to the streets and get involved in drugs or other things. We are talking of love of the child which is where love and peace must begin. These are the things that break peace.

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.

And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

I will never forget Peggy Noonan’s description of being there. The woman sitting next to her wrote a to-do list lest she forget to do her laundry. But there was and is a whole other load to wash.

And this is the to-do list of the Biooethics Defense Fund.  In a unique way the Bioethics Defense Fund answers this call. The call of Evangelium Vitae, “the Gospel of Life.” Spreading the message by living the call – witnessing that, as John Paul put it: “In transforming the culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a ‘new feminism’ which rejects the temptation of imitating models of ‘male domination’, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.”

But it’s much more than one encyclical, of course, or even a few consequential speeches by holy men and women who have lived in our time, that nudges us forward. Every one of us is called to witness to and defend the dignity of the human person, with love, caring the message of God’s boundless mercy in our words and deeds.

I was in San Juan the other day and was introduced to an image of Mary I had either never seen or just never focused on before. It’s a mother with her baby son in her arms. But he is in anguish. You can imagine, perhaps, that this is how she saw her dying son, although a man, as he was on the cross, as he was taken down. You can imagine it a mother holding her dying child in her arms. You can imagine it a mother holding a culture that would allow legal abortion in our arms. Our Mother. May she pray for us now and always.

And there is something so of the moment about the Bioethics Defense Fund, too. Lawyers devoted to those with no voice, to those bearing great pain, to those who in a culture that overdoses in its talk of choice, is full of people who feel they have but one miserable, violent one. Using frequent flier miles to brief at Princeton, in Rome. Drafting and getting model legislation passed. And not necessarily screaming “pro-life!” from the rooftops so much as making life seem doable when it otherwise might not look it, making it seem the most natural of options – because it is. In this team, with their families behind them, contributing in all kinds of loving and sacrificial ways, I see a healing and restoration for our culture, for human lives.

This year has been a painful one for the BDF team, a time of tragic loss and pain for the Nikas family. And yet from Nik I’ve seen nothing but beauty and grace. Talk about being a witness to our faith . . .

This past Sunday, Pope Benedict delivered his Angelus message, as he does. If you’ll permit me I’m going to read it – it’s brief – in full. In part because I believe him to be a great gift to our Church and culture. In part because it seems an appropriate way to end a speech in large part about witness to the dignity of human life in our lives  — about what it means to be one and how each of us can be one.

Pope Benedict reflected:

The word of God of this Sunday — the second to last Sunday of the liturgical year — warns us of the transience of our earthly existence and invites us to live it as a pilgrimage, keeping our gaze fixed on the destination for which God has created us. Moreover, since he made us for himself (cf. St Augustine, Confessions 1, 1), he is our ultimate destination and the meaning of our existence.

Death, followed by the Last Judgement, is an obligatory gate to pass through in order to reach this definitive place. The Apostle Paul says: “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), that is, stealthily without warning. May knowledge of the glorious return of the Lord Jesus spur us to live in an attitude of watchfulness, waiting for his manifestation and in constant remembrance of his first coming.

In the well known Parable of the Talents — recounted by the Evangelist Matthew (cf. 25: 14-30) — Jesus tells the story of three servants to whom their master entrusted his property, before setting out on a long journey. Two of them behaved impeccably, doubling the value of what they had received. On the contrary, the third, buried the money he had received in a hole. On his return, the master asked his servants to account for what he had entrusted to them and while he was pleased with the first two he was disappointed with the third.

Indeed, the servant who had hidden his talent and failed to make it increase in worth, had calculated badly. He behaved as if his master were never to return, as if there would never be a day on which he would be asked to account for his actions. With this parable Jesus wanted to teach his disciples to make good use of their gifts: God calls every person and offers talents to all, at the same time entrusting each one with a mission to carry out. It would be foolish to presume that these gifts are an entitlement, just as failing to use them would mean failing to achieve one’s purpose in life.

In commenting on this Gospel passage St. Gregory the Great noted that the Lord does not let anyone lack the gift of his charity, of his love. He wrote: “brothers, it is necessary that you pay the utmost attention to preserving love in everything you must do” (Homilies on the Gospel, 9, 6). After explaining that true charity consists in loving enemies as well as friends, he added: “if someone lacks this virtue, he loses every good he possesses, he is deprived of the talent he received and is cast out into the darkness” (ibid.).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the invitation to be watchful, of which we are constantly reminded by the Scriptures! This is the attitude of those who know that the Lord will return and that he will like to see the fruits of his love in us. Charity is the fundamental good that no one can fail to bring to fruition and without which every other good is worthless. If Jesus loved us to the point of giving his life for us (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), how can we not love God with the whole of ourselves and love one another with real warmth? (cf. 1 Jn 4:11). It is only by practicing charity that we too will be able to share in the joy of our Lord. May the Virgin Mary teach us active and joyful watchfulness on our journey toward the encounter with God.

The Bioethics Defense Fund is joyfully keeping watch. They may work under the radar at times, but they are not burying their talents. Pray for them and their work. And thank God for them. I thank God for you and your support of them and their work.

And thank God for your bishop. What a brave man! He is a witness, who has suffered and been demonized. But who is providing clarity and swinging open doors to God’s mercy.

As we pray for them and thank God for them, let us heed the words of St. Catherine of Siena as we beg the Father to make us witnesses of His love and mercy in our wounded culture:  “Engraft yourself onto the tree of the cross. Bind yourself by love, by measureless, infinite charity, to the slain lamb who pours out his blood from every part of his body. Let these hearts of ours be broken open! No more harness, no more carelessness – for time does not sleep but runs its course relentlessly! Let us make our dwelling place with Him in love and holy desire, and we need never be afraid again.”

And can I make one suggestion before I stop talking? For us Catholics in particular: Do we have an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our homes, in our lives? As Bishop Olmsted has written:  “Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not irrelevant piety and not a distraction from our mission in the world. Neither is devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. We live in a nation that allows the legal killing of over a million of its unborn children every year, and that cultivates human embryos in order to use them for scientific research. We live, in other words, in a country that endorses the false claim that killing others can solve our problems, that violence can bring about peace. Such lies ultimately lead to despair and a culture of disbelief. But, Our Lady of Guadalupe leads us along a different path; she leads us to her Son. At her invitation, we can place our hearts in her hands, next to her Son’s Sacred Heart. There, we shall always find harmony and peace. There, is where our broken world finds true hope.”

With Him – resting in His most Sacred Heart — even in the worst of times, He will keep us close to His promise of eternal life.

Thank you for this honor. God bless you and all you do.

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