Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Life’

Protecting our Pro-Life Brand

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I am known among my friends and colleagues as a political geek, so I am frequently asked my opinion about particular candidates.  One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Is he pro-life?”

I think that we pro-lifers really need to start to pay attention to protecting the integrity of our brand name, because it is becoming seriously diluted.

Certainly, lots of politicians will describe themselves as “pro-life”, when it is to their political advantage.  But what does that mean?

If they mean “opposed to stabbing babies in the neck and sucking out their brains” (partial-birth abortion), or “opposed to strangling babies born alive despite the abortion” (the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act), then that’s definitely a “pro-life” position.  If the standard is “won’t force people to pay for or perform abortions against their religious beliefs” (the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act), then that’s a “pro-life” position too.   We could go beyond individual pieces of legislation, and if the candidate “won’t appoint Planned Parenthood or NARAL ideologues to key policy positions”, then that’s a “pro-life” position as well.

So a person’s stand on specific issues, and their track record on particular policy matters, are clearly important — actions speak louder than words.

But the label “pro-life” has to mean more than just “how many boxes can I check off on this list, so that people can be convinced to call me ‘pro-life'”.  If that’s all it is, the term has become meaningless — and we will always be vulnerable to manipulation by politicians and interest groups with malleable principles but the ability to craft clever position papers.

I guess I’m just tired of hearing people describe a candidate as “pro-life” when the best that can be said about him is that he’s “anti-abortion in most cases”, or that he’s just “better than the other guy”.  We should demand more of our politicians, and we should demand more of ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll never get anything more than what we’ve been getting for years — lip service at election time, crumbs from the table afterwards.

Being “pro-life” — as opposed to merely taking “pro-life” positions — has a much broader and deeper meaning.  It involves a recognition of the sacredness of life, its inherent dignity, that views each individual human being as having inestimable value because he or she is made in the image and likeness of God.  It rejects a reductionist or utilitarian view of humanity, where lives are disposable if they are inconvenient, not “useful”, or if they came into being in a way that we disapprove.   It entails a commitment to defending each and every life against abuse, from whatever source.  It calls people to acts of direct service to the poor, the vulnerable, and the frail.  It is an attitude of reverence in the divine presence, seen in every human person.

To get a sense of what our “pro-life brand” really means, people should take a look at the beautiful statement by the U.S. bishops, Living the Gospel of Life.  Certainly, Pope John Paul’s great encyclical The Gospel of Life should also be studied.

The goal of the “pro-life” movement is not just to win elections, pass particular bills, or appoint specific people to courts.  The goal is to transform hearts and minds, so that we can build a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love.

That’s the real definition of our brand, and we should protect it and market it to a culture that desperately needs it, and to people who hunger for it.  The real “pro-life” brand will sell itself, because it speaks to the truths that are already written deep in the human heart.

Controversies and Dinners

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

There is a controversy brewing in Catholic and pro-life circles over reports that the President has been invited to attend the annual Al Smith Dinner here in New York.  In my opinion, people need to take a deep breath, relax a second, and think carefully about this.

It’s important first to understand what the Al Smith Dinner is, and is not, and then what the invitation means, and what it does not.

The Al Smith Dinner is organized and hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which is closely affiliated with but independent of the Archdiocese of New York.  It’s named after Governor Al Smith, an iconic figure in New York politics, who dedicated his life to serving the people of the state, particularly the needy.  He was a classic urban machine politician, but was also committed to working with others across party lines when he saw that it was in the public interest.  He was always proud of his Catholic faith and he defended the Church against attacks against religious bigotry.  He was certainly well familiar with anti-Catholicism, since his own faith was brutally attacked during his run for the Presidency in 1928.

The dinner is not a religious event in any way — it’s a civic/political event that raises money for Catholic charitable institutions.  It’s not held at a religious building — it’s at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  It has no religious component aside from a benediction and closing prayer — much like sessions of Congress.  A large proportion of the people who attend the Dinner are not Catholic, and the list of past speakers shows that only once in its almost 70-year history has a religious figure given the keynote address (Cardinal O’Connor).

The dinner has a long tradition of inviting New York elected officials of all parties, and candidates of both major parties for the Presidency.  It is strictly non-partisan, and an invitation to the dinner is in no way an endorsement of any office holder, or any candidate for office.

It’s also important that the politicians who speak at the dinner are not being given any honor or award by the Church, but are rather delivering an address that is one part jocular remarks written by professional jokesters, and two-parts generic political after-dinner bromides.  Any comparison between the Al Smith Dinner and the honorary degree given to the President at Notre Dame’s graduation ceremony is thus completely off-the-mark.

Everybody at the dinner understands this — it’s a civic event, much like a Veteran’s Day parade (but with a fancier menu and white tie).

Some people have been saying that inviting the President in some way undermines or contradicts the Church’s public witness in defense of life and the family.  There is no question that the President’s political agenda and policy record are deplorable from a Catholic perspective — he is consistently anti-life and is ardent in his promotion and support of abortion, he is in favor of re-defining marriage, he opposes parental choice in education, his Administration is a consistent enemy of religious freedom, and there is good reason to believe that he has dealt with our bishops in less than good faith.

Give the consistency and strength with which our bishops — particularly Cardinal Dolan — have been proclaiming the Catholic view of public policy, it is hard to see how this one Dinner could possibly lead anyone to believe that the Church is softening her defense of life, the family, and religious liberty.  When everyone wakes up the morning after, the struggle will resume.

But, as a matter of fact, an invitation to the current incumbent President to the Al Smith Dinner actually sends a message, one that is important in this time of pathologically toxic politics.  It says to us that we can vehemently disagree with a public official’s positions, but we can still show respect for his office, and for him as a person, and treat him with civility.  It gives us an opportunity to act as Christians, and show some love to our adversaries, and even those whose policies we consider to be immoral and oppressive. After all, even St. Peter told us to “honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17).

The message is also that we can set aside our deeply-held differences and leave the partisan politics at the door for an evening, speak nicely and politely to each other, and work together for a common cause in the service of the poor.  That’s a good thing, something that Al Smith would have been proud to associate himself with, and something that Catholics and pro-lifers should also support.

 

Note:  Some bloggers and other news sources have linked to this blog post, and have said that it is a statement by “the Archdiocese”.  Please read the sidebar to this blog: “The opinions expressed by the Bloggers… are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Archdiocese of New York”.  These comments are not an official statement by the Archdiocese or the Cardinal — they represent my opinions, and mine alone.  Clear?  Okay, fire away — but in a civil way, please.

Polling Life

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Kathryn Lopez of National Review Online recently invited me to contribute to an symposium commenting on recent poll results that show a drop in the number of people who consider themselves to be “pro-choice” (to an all-time low of 41%), and a rise in those who call themselves “pro-life” (to 51%).  When you break out the numbers in the poll, it actually is a bit more encouraging — 72% think abortion should be restricted to some or no circumstances.

Here is what I contributed to the symposium:

Recent poll results, which show a significant decline in the number of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice,” will no doubt surprise many people. After all, didn’t the Supreme Court claim, in its Casey decision, that it had settled the issue of abortion? Hasn’t abortion become such an integral part of women’s health that it is impossible to conceive of American society without it?

That is certainly the conventional wisdom. But this conventional wisdom is utterly wrong, because the power of the truth and love will always find a way into the human heart. As more people experience the wonder of modern sonograms and fetal photographs, they are enthralled by the beauty of human life. And they are repelled by the inhumanity of “pro-choice” advocates who callously speak of unborn people as disposable when inconvenient. People recognize that attitude as false, and unloving.

The challenge for defenders of life is to build upon this fundamental sense of the truth about human life, and the love it engenders. Certainly, we must work for laws that give commonsense protection for the unborn, and that encourage the choice for life. But even more important, we must continue to give clear and unambiguous witness to love — by speaking with compassion and kindness about this issue, and by giving practical help to struggling mothers and fathers, and to those who are suffering after an abortion.

More and more people are seeing the truth and rejecting the lies. And this is opening the human heart to the love that will ultimately transform our culture.

The Power of the Truth

Friday, May 4th, 2012

On April 30, I attended the public meeting of the Westchester Board of Legislators, to present the statement of the Archdiocese in opposition of the “clinic access” bill that would unfairly restrict the free speech rights of pro-life witnesses outside of abortion clinics.

That statement reads as follows:

A bill is now pending before the Westchester Board of Legislators, which will violate the Constitutional rights of those who give pro-life witness outside abortion clinics.

We urgently call upon all members of the Board to oppose this unjust bill.

This bill is premised upon the false assumption that there is a significant problem with disorder outside of abortion clinics. Actually, law-abiding citizens give peaceful and prayerful pro-life witness on a regular basis, offering valuable information to women approaching the clinics without violating any of the currently-existing federal and state laws regarding access to abortion clinics. Despite such a clear record of respect for the law, this legislation is designed to prevent pro-life advocates from speaking freely merely because their speech is considered unwelcome by some powerful interest groups that favor and profit from abortion.

This legislation is fundamentally unfair to ordinary citizens who wish to express their Constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. It is vague and ambiguous so that ordinary people could not possibly know what kinds of behavior or speech are prohibited.  Ultimately, it is unfair to women who have a right to information before they make their decision
as to whether or not to have an abortion.

This legislation does a disservice to these women, to their unborn children, and to society as a whole, and should therefore be rejected.

I have been present at many legislative hearings, and I generally have low expectations.  We have to bear in mind that most legislative hearings are not like court proceedings — it’s not like arguing to a neutral jury or a judge who’s open to hearing both sides.  The legislators have largely made up their minds already.  But in some cases, hearings are a good place for the public airing of reasons for and against legislation, and some legislators may actually listen to what is being said.  Some of them are looking for a reason to take a position on a bill, and the hearing may give them that hook to hang their hat on.  I have been to several hearings where there was good interaction between legislators and witnesses.  Not many, but a few.

In a way, it’s not so much what is said by the witnesses, but their presence and witness — so that the hearing becomes an indicator to the legislators of the depth of feeling about bills and a gauge of the political mood of the populace.

In that light, the hearing was fairly typical of what I’ve experienced.  The public witness of so many pro-lifers was a good sign — it sent a message to our allies on the Board that they have a lot of support, and hopefully gave some of the wavering members some reason to lean our way.  Having so many “regular people” on our side — as opposed to the largely institutional witnesses on the other side (e.g., employees and activists from Planned Parenthood) — was a very good thing.  I think that the legislators are more impressed when lots of people testify who don’t make a living out of the issue at hand.  Five voters count for a lot more than one “spokesman”.

The most powerful testimony was given by a young African-American woman, who spoke of her own abortions, and how she has come to regret them.  She has now dedicated herself to going to abortion clinics, and giving sidewalk counseling to other women contemplating abortion, to make sure that they understand that they have a choice.

But there were so many others, who stood outside on long lines in the cold, awaiting an opportunity to come into the legislative chamber.  The hearing went on until after midnight, and many stayed until the wee hours to present their own testimony.

The struggle against this bill is not over.  A final vote will be taken on May 7.  We are hoping that the County Executive will veto the bill, and that there will be enough votes on the Board to sustain the veto.  Residents of Westchester should contact their legislators — even if they’ve done so already, they should do it again, and again, and again.  To find the name of your legislator, go here.  Email and other contact information can be found here. The most effective advocacy comes from sustained contact between constituents and their legislators over a long period of time — visits, calls, emails, etc.

So often, we feel powerless in the face of the large, powerful and rich forces that are arrayed against us.

But the power of the truth, and the witness of those who are willing to testify to it with love, can never be underestimated.

The Politics of Principle

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

(This is a repeat of a post from this same day the last three years.  It was written in memory of Jack Swan, a great warrior of faith and politics, who entered eternal life on February 2, 1998.  God sent Jack into my life to teach me these lessons about politics, and I’m just a pygmy standing on the shoulders of a giant.  Jack, please pray for me, that I get the lessons right.)

In the mind of most people, “politics” is the struggle of candidates, political parties, and their supporters to gain power and influence in the government. That is certainly true up to a point, and it makes for interesting entertainment.

I write a good deal about politics on this blog and elsewhere, and I’m frequently perceived as being “political” in that sense — of being”partisan”. That completely misses the point.

There is a deeper, more significant nature of politics. It is the way we order our society together, so that we can live according to our vocations and be happy, and ultimately attain eternal life. In this understanding of politics, the partisan theater is an important reality, but it is not the main focus. What really matters is principle.

Without principles, politics becomes mere pragmatism, where the question is whether something “works”, or, in the less elevated version of the game, what’s in it for me. Now, don’t get me wrong. Pragmatism is important — we want our government to be effective. But again, principle is more important.

I received much of my tutelage in the real world of politics from a man who devoted his life to being a practitioner of the politics of principle. I learned that it was fine to be keenly interested in the partisan scrum, but only to the extent that it advanced the principles we hold dear — defense of human life, protection of marriage, family and children, and religious liberty. The promotion of those principles is more important than party label, and the idea is to support — or oppose — politicians based on their fidelity to those principles, not based on what party label they happened to be wearing this week.

That’s how I try to practice politics, in my small and limited way. I have opinions and judgments about many pragmatic issues, and what kinds of national security, economic and other policies would “work” better than others. But none of those pragmatic issues matter at all, compared to the core principles.

Here’s how it works for me. If a politician doesn’t protect human life, I don’t care what his position is on other issues. If he can’t understand that human life is sacred and must be protected at all stages, I have no reason to trust his judgment about any other issue. And, very frankly, anyone who does not understand that basic principle is not, in my opinion, fit to hold public office.

The same holds for the other core issues. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. If you don’t respect human life, don’t see the need to preserve marriage as one man and one woman, and won’t defend religious liberty, they you just have to look elsewhere to get your fifty percent plus one.

This means that I am perpetually dissatisfied with our political process and our politicians. But that’s fine with me. They are all temporary office holders anyway, here today and gone tomorrow, and their platforms are passing fancies that nobody will remember in a short time. The principles, however, remain perpetually valid.

Listen, Our Lord made a very simple request of us. He said, “Follow me”. He didn’t say, be a Republican or a Democrat, a Socialist or a Whig. He demands that I be his follower. So I need to look to the Lord for my principles, and in this age that means I have to listen to the Church. That’s what Our Lord wants me to do — after all, he said to his apostles “he who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). We happen to have in our midst the successors of those apostles — the Holy Father, our bishops, and my bishop in particular. As a Catholic I must listen to them, and get my political principles from them, not from Fox News, CNN, talking heads of the left or the right, the editorial page of the Times, or either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

This, to me, is the way to live as a disciple of Christ in this crazy political process. I realize that this will be considered odd by many, and even dangerous by some.

But we hardly need more party loyalists at this, or any other, time. And we certainly need more practitioners of the politics of principle.

And So We March

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Tomorrow, January 23, thousands of people will make a pilgrimage to Washington, DC, to give witness to the dignity of every human life.

If you’re going, I hope to see you there — you can’t miss me in the crowd, I’ll be standing with some Sisters of Life.  If you can’t make it, please join us in prayer.

You may also wish to watch this video from Students for Life, to get a sense of the spirit of the March:

War and Consequentialism

Friday, January 13th, 2012

As the presidential race heats up, the rhetoric also heats up.  And the language being used on the issue of war and national defense is becoming very warm indeed.

And very, very morally troubling.

Just yesterday, a scientist who is allegedly working on the Iranian nuclear program was killed when his got into his car and was blown up by an explosive that was attached to it by unknown parties.  It was the latest incident in an ongoing covert war being conducted against the Iranian regime and their suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons.

In response, one of the candidates for the Presidency of the United States said this:

any nuclear scientist, particularly any foreign nuclear scientist, who’s cooperating with the Iranians in developing a nuclear weapon program would be considered an enemy combatant…  this is the most serious threat to the security and stability of the world that we have today, and we should be using all types of methodologies to stop that, including taking out people

Now, I’m certainly no pacifist.  I strongly support the ability of a national government to defend itself and its citizens against unjust aggression.  And I have no doubt that the current regime in Iran is oppressive to its own people and dangerous to its neighbors, particularly Israel.

But there is no way that one can justify the rhetoric I just quoted.  Leave aside for a moment the question of legality under American and international law — which would involve answering the question, “when did we declare war on Iran?”

Killing this scientist was utterly inconsistent with the principles of the divine and natural law. It is clearly not morally permissible to kill another human being because one believes that he may be working on a scientific program that may, at some point, pose a threat to our nation.

Pope John Paul, in his great encyclical, the Gospel of Life, said this very plainly:

“The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity” (57)

Assuming we can trust in the accuracy of our intelligence community (a dubious proposition, in any event) and consider this scientist not to be “innocent”, a preemptive use of deadly force is still unjustified.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, in the context of the death penalty:

“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.” (CCC 2267)

Killing a man because his work may prove a threat to the United States at some undefined point in the future is consequentialism at its most blatant — doing evil so that good may come of it.

Christians must be better than that.

From One Fertilized Egg to Another

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The late moral theologian, Msgr. William Smith, often noted that all social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.  The pro-life journalist Paul Greenberg also has said that homicide is always preceded by verbicide.

Which brings us to the most recent example of how our culture will engage in virtually any kind of verbal and mental contortion in order to deny the reality of human life, and to justify its destruction.

Pending on the ballot in Mississippi today is a measure that would define the term “person” or “human person” as including “every human being from the moment of fertilization…”  This is a species of “personhood” initiative that seeks to undermine or even overturn our current regime of abortion on demand, for any reason, for all nine months of pregnancy.

I don’t wish to comment on the merits of the proposal, which I frankly have reservations about.

What I’m interested in is the media coverage of the initiative.  Naturally, the media is dubious about the measure, and likes to say that the bill would grant legal personhood to a “fertilized egg”.

Now, I’m no scientist, but even my high school biology tells me that there’s no such thing as a “fertilized egg”.  Once a sperm and egg join together, something else comes into existence —  a new human being. This is not really a controversial matter — it’s basic science.

If you have any doubts about the science of the matter, check out this “white paper” from Dr. Maureen Condic, an expert on embryology.

The media is not the only institution that likes to obfuscate about science when it gets in the way of its favored result.  Our New York State Court of Appeals once was determined to treat frozen human embryos as marital property in a divorce case.  In order to do so, it couldn’t admit that the embryos were human beings.  So instead they declared the frozen humans to be “pre-zygotes” — a meaningless term that is absurd as a matter of science, and that only makes sense if words mean whatever we want them to mean.

It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.  Here we are, people of faith, whom the media loves to accuse of being hostile to science.  Yet we are the ones who point out facts that are evident from even a rudimentary familiarity with basic science.  And there is our elite culture, which loves to trumpet its “faith” in scientific theories, resorting to linguistic gymnastics and wishful thinking, in order to get its favored result — denying the humanity of the unborn human being, so that it may be destroyed or experimented upon.

The life of every single one of us started at fertilization.  Neither you nor I were ever anything other than a human being, from that very instant that sperm and egg joined together.  And our law will continue to be absurd and unjust until it recognizes that fact.

Trust me on this one — I’m a grown-up “fertilized egg”.

In My Neighborhood

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

The Chiaroscuro Foundation recently put up on its website an interactive map that displays the abortion statistics for residents of every zip code in the City of New York.  I recommend that everyone in the City look up their neighborhood — you’ll definitely learn something.

I looked at my own neighborhood.  I’ve lived my whole life in a neighborhood split between Yonkers and the Bronx.  The Bronx part is Woodlawn, which shares the 10470 zip with a small portion of Wakefield.  Woodlawn is considered to be a very good neighborhood — solidly middle class, dominated by Irish immigrants (some of long-standing, some more recently).   Wakefield is a largely African-American and West-Indian neighborhood, but also mainly middle class and blue-collar.

The zip code is two-thirds white, with the remainder being a mixture of African-American, West Indian, and Latino.  Over 75% of adults have a high school education or better, and 20% have at least a bachelor’s degree.  Both neighborhoods have economic problems — unemployment is pretty high thanks to the crash of the construction industry, and the poverty rate is not great (although far better than the rest of the Bronx).  We have four good schools — a Catholic elementary school and high school, a  Lutheran school, and two public elementary schools.

There are lots of vibrant families and children, and lots of churches —  Woodlawn alone has five churches.  We even have a convent of the Sisters of Life.

But the abortion statistics in my neighborhood are horrible.

There were 267 pregnancies in this zip code in 2009, the most recent year reported.  115 of them ended in abortion. That’s a 43% abortion ratio — even worse than the overall number for New York City.

There are lots of reasons for this tragedy.  I am convinced that a great number of abortions happen because a mother in crisis thinks that she won’t be supported by the baby’s father, their families, or the community.  This abortion ratio in my neighborhood is wake-up call to our families, churches, and community.

So what can we do?  Preaching in the churches and teaching in the home are obviously the foundation.  We also need to promote chastity, so that women don’t have unexpected pregnancies, especially out of wedlock.  We need to make sure that every woman knows that she is not alone, that she will have the support of her family and community to make the choice for life, or that she can turn to one of the many pregnancy support centers in our area.  We need to make sure that more women know that help is out there, from Catholic Charities Maternity Bureau, and from the wonderful Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life.

In the end, it will come down to decisions made by individuals and families.  And for that, much grace is needed.  Mary, Mother of Life, please pray for women contemplating abortion in my neighborhood, and everywhere.  And obtain for me the grace I need to be there for the women in my life and my neighborhood, if they ever are in crisis.

Mary and Her Knights

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the annual Knights of Columbus Prayer Rally in Albany.   Knights, their families and friends came from around the state to give public witness to our Catholic faith, and to call on our elected officials to defend life and the family.

Many groups come to Albany during the legislative session to lobby their Assembly and Senate representatives.  Virtually every day, you can see people from a wide variety of organizations and interest groups, patrolling the halls of the Capitol, and speaking to the elected officials.  That’s the regular course of business in Albany.

The Knights’ rally, though, is fundamentally different.

Yes, it’s about public policy.  We heard speeches about issues of grave concern to Catholics and to the common good, particularly about abortion and same-sex “marriage”.  I even said a few words to the crowd about the dangers to religious liberty that would come from redefining marriage. A number of Assembly representatives and Senators spoke, and the crowd responded enthusiastically.  Again, that’s pretty typical for Albany.

What makes this rally stand out though, is the most important item on the agenda for the day — prayer.  The entire rally was centered on the public communal recitation of the Rosary.  Yes, public prayer, not just public advocacy.  That makes all the difference.

Mary holds a special place in the heart of a Knight.  We truly look upon her as Our Lady.  Much as the knights of old were invested with their war gear, in a similar way we look upon Mary’s Rosary as our weapon of spiritual warfare.  Ask a Knight of Columbus, and chances are pretty good that he’s armed with a Rosary in his pocket, and he knows how to use it.

My favorite part of the rally is the devout hush that descend on the assembly when the time for speeches has ended and the time for prayer has come.  Further conversations are halted, or are muted.  Passersby stare in curiosity, perhaps in disbelief, but with respect.  All those present have lifted their hearts and minds to God, through the intercession of our Mother.  The fervent prayers echo in the cavern created by the surrounding state office buildings — giving witness to our faith, and, in a sense, sanctifying the halls of secular authority.

We gathered together in a place of power to give courageous witness to the power of faith, and to proclaim that all public activism by Christians must be rooted in prayer.  We came to do what the Lord commanded us, through the prophet Micah:

“Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.” (Mic 6:1)

Heeding that command, Mary’s Knights came to Albany, offered our prayers to God through her never-failing intercession, and were confident that our prayers were heard.