Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Life’

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.

Why “Make Abortion Rare”?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

On March 8, Catholics from around the state traveled to Albany for the annual “Catholics at the Capitol” day, sponsored by the State Bishops’ Conference.  The purpose of the day is to offer Catholics an opportunity to stand together on the broad range of issues of concern to us — protecting life, strengthening our schools, caring for the poor and sick — and to speak to our state legislators.

One of the issue papers distributed by the Conference was entitled “Making Abortion Rare”.  This document explained our Church’s opposition to the radical Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would lead to an increase in abortion, by placing it beyond any reasonable regulation.  A second issue was our opposition to the Governor’s elimination of all funding for the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation.  That foundation supports local initiatives and organizations that offer alternatives to abortions, and have helped thousands of women have their babies.

These positions are a practical response to the challenge issued by Archbishop Dolan at his press conference in January about the appalling abortion rate in New York City: “I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.”

Some of our pro-life supporters have expressed discomfort with saying that we wish to “make abortion rare”.  They are worried that this might imply that we are conceding the legality of abortion, and that we have given up our ultimate goal of defending every human life.

This concern is understandable, because people rightly can’t be satisfied with anything short of full protection for the unborn.  I understand this concern, but I believe it is unfounded.

Our ultimate goals in this struggle have never changed.  Nobody has any doubt about the position of the Catholic Church on abortion.  We are absolutely, unalterably, irrevocably opposed to legal abortion, and will never accept the legitimacy of laws that permit it.  We hold steadfastly to building a culture of life in which every life is valued in our society and its laws.

But while we pursue those ultimate goals, we have to take into account the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves.  Then, relying on the virtue of prudence, we have to mitigate the harm that is being done by legalized abortion, and try to achieve realistically attainable results to advance the culture of life.

This approach was outlined in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life:

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. (90)

The challenge to “make abortion rare” is just such an initiative.  It takes into account the political and cultural fact that a complete abrogation of abortion laws is not attainable in our current cultural and legal climate.  It is directed not to people who are already committed to the cause of life.  Instead, it is an appeal to those who consider themselves “pro-choice”, but are uncomfortable with abortion and may be open to work with us on practical measures to reduce it.

In other words, it is an effort to change hearts, to rebuild the foundation for a true culture of life.  As hearts change, laws will follow.

Our vision and our goals will always remain the same.   As the United States Bishops said in their statement, Living the Gospel of Life:

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights. (33)

A Witness to Hope

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Earlier this week, Dr. Bernard Nathanson passed away and entered into eternal life.  Archbishop Dolan will celebrate his funeral Mass on Monday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the earlier part of his life, Dr. Nathanson was a leader of the movement to legalize and normalize abortion in American life.  He crafted public arguments — which he later admitted were rooted in falsehood — to justify the changing of laws and morals on abortion.  And he personally performed thousands of abortions himself.

If that were all we could say about his life, it would be odd indeed to be celebrating a funeral Mass for him at our Cathedral.   But that was not all.

Soon after he had accomplished his aims — the legalization of abortion in America — Dr. Nathanson began a remarkable personal and spiritual journey, which he recounted in his autobiography, The Hand of God.

Confronted by the images he saw on fetal sonograms, he became convinced of the humanity of the unborn child and rejected the practice and ideology of abortion.  He became an outspoken pro-life advocate — a most famous and powerful convert to the cause of human life.  He tirelessly denounced the deceptions at the heart of the abortion business, and deeply regretted his role in advancing it. He himself said, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”  He was deeply oppressed by his complicity in the great evil of abortion, and steered close to despair from the burden of his sins.  Despite this, he continued to resist turning to God for help.

Attending pro-life protests in the late 1980’s, Dr. Nathanson was confronted with something he did not expect.  As he described in his autobiography, he was stunned by the sense of love exhibited by the pro-life protestors.  They sang hymns and offered prayers for the unborn children, the mothers, and the clinic workers, their faces filled with joy.  Their witness of selfless love touched Dr. Nathanson at his core, and he began a new stage of his journey.

He “began to entertain seriously the notion of God — a god who problematically had led me through the proverbial circles of hell, only to show me the way to redemption and mercy through His grace”.  These thoughts about God, “held out a shimmering sliver of Hope to me, in the growing belief that Someone had died for my sins and my evil two millennia ago.”

This was the true turning point of his life — the beginning of his genuine conversion.

Eventually, he was baptized by Cardinal O’Connor in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, surrounded by pro-life co-workers and friends.  All his sins were washed away in the water of life, and he was re-born anew in the Holy Spirit.  Strengthened by that grace, he continued his ardent pro-life advocacy for the remainder of his life.  He was a leader of the movement, and a mentor and friend to many.  He will be deeply missed.

But, in a larger sense, Dr. Nathanson is an important witness to something that all of us must hold close to our hearts — the virtue of hope.  It would have been easy for an outside observer to give up on him when he was still active in the abortion business, and to despair of any chance of his conversion.  We in the pro-life movement frequently feel this way about others among us — like health professionals who perform or assist in abortions, and public figures who support it.

But we must never give up, because God never gives up on anyone — His grace is indefatigable.  Dr. Bernard Nathanson is a shining example of our hope in the great and inexhaustible mercy of God.

In the famous story of the Prodigal Son, Our Lord told us of the loving, merciful father, who never fails to forgive those who return to him.  When his wastrel son finally came to his senses, rejected his sins, and returned to ask for forgiveness, “his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20).

Let us all pray in hope that Dr. Bernard Nathanson, having now returned home, will be received with compassion and enfolded in the loving embrace and kiss of his merciful Father.

A “Truce”? No Thanks.

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana is testing the waters for a run in the Republican presidential primaries in 2012.  His record shows that he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to pro-life causes and legislation.

So, why am I writing about a governor from an obscure state somewhere to the west of us?  Because Gov. Daniels, in his political wisdom, has decided that his main campaign issue is going to be the crushing national debt, and the irresponsibility of federal spending policies, particularly the dumping of that debt onto future generations. I have no problem with that.  The national debt is a deeply troubling matter, and it is profoundly unjust to be irresponsible now and expect our children to pick up the tab later.

But what I do have a problem with is what Gov. Daniels is saying about the “social issues”.  That’s the code word in Washington and the media for abortion and marriage.  The governor is saying that these fiscal issues are so serious that we need to put aside the “social issues” for a later date, and not press them forward in the national agenda — that we need a “truce” on these issues while we deal with the budgetary matters.  In his most recent statements on this subject, he suggested that we “just sort of mute [the social issues] for a little while”.

Oh, I see.  Never mind that a million or more children are being killed every year, their mothers wounded physically and psychologically.  Never mind that marriage is re-defined out of existence, undermining the foundation of civilized society.  Never mind that the very definition of human nature is being subverted.  Those of us who care deeply about the dignity of human life should just be quiet for a while — that’s what the “mute” button does, after all — while the politicians deal with the spreadsheet and balance book, and while the Culture of Death continues to spread its insidious grasp.

Sorry, no deal.  Our national debt may be “a republic-threatening issue”, as Gov. Daniels puts it.  But the current state of the law, which permits lethal violence against an entire class of human beings, and which produces such results as the 41% abortion rate in New York City, is a civilization-threatening issue.  A soul-threatening issue.  A life-threatening issue.

The re-definition of marriage threatens society at its core, by separating love, sex, and children.  It ignores the fundamental complementarity of man and woman, severs human relations from concern about future generations, and tells children that parents of both sexes — particularly fathers — are not important.  It turns a millennium or more of social consensus on its head.

Our Church has been clear is stating that the right to life and authentic marriage are the foundation that underpins all of human society.   No budgetary issue — however grave — comes close in significance.

So, despite Gov. Daniels’ political strategy, we’ll continue to speak out about the profound injustice of abortion, and the dangers of re-defining marriage.

No “truce”.  No thanks.

The Politics of Principle

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

(This is a repeat of a post from this same day the last two 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.

A Call to Action

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Last week, a very important press conference took place, in response to the recent release of statistics on abortion in New York City.

Anyone with a conscience should be shocked by the horrifying numbers in the report:

  • 41% of all pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion — 87,273 abortions;
  • In the Bronx, 48% of all pregnancies ended in abortion;
  • 60% of African American pregnancies ended in abortion;
  • Among Blacks, there are far more abortions  than live births — for every 1,000 live births, there are 1,489 abortions;
  • Among teens of all other ethnic groups, for every 1,000 live births, there are 1,288 abortions;
  • This is not just an issue with teen pregnancy — 54% of abortions were with mothers in their 20’s, 30% were with mothers in their 30’s or 40’s;
  • These statistics were analyzed by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a private group that has committed to working to support pro-life initiatives, particularly pregnancy support efforts. They have set up a website, NYC 41 Percent, to publicize this effort.

    The press conference was most significant because it called together a group of interfaith leaders — Catholics, Protestants, Jews, whites, blacks and Hispanics — who all pledged to work to offer pregnant women real choices.

    For his part, Archbishop Dolan re-issued Cardinal O’Connor’s famous pledge to offer support to any pregnant woman in need.  For his remarks at the press conference, see here.

    Catholic Charities is already doing a great deal to fulfill that pledge, and the Sisters of Life do heroic work to help pregnant women and those who have already given birth.  The various pregnancy support centers in the City, and many faith communities are working miracles.  These efforts are certainly worthy of support.

    But they’re not enough.  More must be done.

    At Mass I attended this morning, the celebrant read the Archbishop’s press conference statement in his homily, and called to mind a story from his earlier days as a construction worker.  When things were slow, and the workers were idle, the foreman would tell them, “This isn’t a spectator sport”.

    Just so.  Preventing abortions is not a spectator sport.  The decision to have an abortion, all too often, is made by a woman who feels afraid and isolated, with nobody to support or help her.  That means that all of us, in our families, parishes, and communities, can prevent abortions by giving practical and emotional support to the women in our lives.  No woman should ever go to an abortion clinic because she feels alone.

    That’s a call to action for us all.

    Election Results

    Sunday, November 7th, 2010

    Gallons of ink, and millions of electrons, have been spilled on the results of last week’s election, and what it means for our nation, our state, the political fortunes of the President and a host of other presidential contenders, our new-fangled voting machines, etc.

    I’m more interested in real results.

    On the national level, the switch of control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans has brought with it a pro-life majority. The narrowing of the Democratic majority in the Senate also increases the chances for some pro-life legislation. These election results present new opportunities for real gains on Culture of Life issues.

    The top priority has to be passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Currently, restrictions on public funding for abortion comes through piecemeal amendments to the budget bills. This means that pro-lifers have to be vigilant about all the various ways that canny legislators and bureaucrats can find to promote abortion. So, the Hyde Amendment restricts funding through the Medicaid program, the Helms Amendment stops funding for oversees abortions, the Smith Amendment prevents federal employee health insurance plans from covering abortion, and the Weldon Amendment provides conscience protection to medical personnel. Each year, these amendments have to be passed against the opposition of pro-abortion members of Congress.

    This bill would take the provisions of these individual amendments, make them permanent law, and apply them across the entire federal budget. This would cure the major flaw in the health care reform law, as well as offer genuine and solid conscience protection for all medical personnel. This is a bill that would easily pass the House, and has a decent chance of passing the Senate — public funding for abortion is deeply unpopular.  It would be very interesting to see what our pro-abortion President would do if this bill appeared on his desk.

    That’s one result of the elections that we’re looking forward to.

    On the state level, the results of the election are not as positive. Our state has elected an ardently pro-abortion Governor and a radically pro-abortion Attorney General. Both men have committed to pressing for the passage of the extremist Reproductive Health Act. The chaos over the results of the elections for the State Senate (the final outcome is still in doubt) leaves Culture of Life supporters with a deep sense of uneasiness that the real result of the state elections could be very, very bad. So, we must remain vigilant in monitoring what goes on in Albany.

    Perhaps the most interesting result of the election is the continuing demonstration of the popularity of the pro-life position. Conventional “wisdom” characterizes a pro-life stand as an electoral loser, and encourages candidates to avoid it. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.   Polls show that 30% of the voters in this election said that abortion “affected” their vote. But it’s the breakdown of that 30% that’s most interesting — 22% voted for pro-life candidates, while only 8% voted for pro-abortion candidates. That’s an advantage of almost three to one in favor of life.

    This reflects an on-going trend that I’ve written about but that continues to elude the mainstream media. Our culture is slowly changing towards greater respect for life, and a greater desire to promote life. The new pro-life majority in Congress is just one reflection of this trend. More will follow.

    That is a very encouraging result of the election.

    Talking About a Revolution

    Monday, October 18th, 2010

    (On October 15, I had the privilege of speaking at the annual dinner of the Ulster County Right to Life Committee.  They wanted me to give an overview of the state of the pro-life movement, and to offer some words of encouragement.  My talk was well-received, so thought I would share an adapted version here.)

    Tonight, I want to talk to you about a revolution.  It’s not a violent revolution, nor is it a political revolution, at least not first and foremost.  It’s not a loud and boisterous revolution, with cannons and drums and fireworks.  In fact, if you don’t know what to look for, you may not even be able to see it.

    Let me explain, by first stepping back and looking at the current situation in our society.  By any reasonable measure, our society is deeply in the grip of what Pope JP II called the “Culture of Death”.  We see threats to life abound at all levels.

    At the beginning of life, the recently passed health care bill institutionalizes and mainstreams abortion, and provides for public funding (direct and indirect) for abortion.  Embryonic stem cell research and cloning bring the attack back to the very foundation of life.  And there is a deeply ingrained contraceptive mentality that views children as threats to individual fulfillment or even to the survival of society as a whole.

    At the end of life, the health care bill makes government rationing of health care inevitable, based on arbitrary “quality of life” calculations and “medical futility” determinations.  There is even pressures to re-define when death occurs from organ harvesters.

    The family and marriage, which are the foundation of society, are under severe attack.  Marriage being re-defined, cohabitation becoming an accepted option as the equal of marriage, and pornography devastates true human sexuality.

    Religious values are being stigmatized as bigotry, and believers are being pushed out of government programs, institutions and the public square.

    But that is not the whole story, and that brings me to the revolution.  I believe that we are on the edge of a great revolutionary moment.  This revolution is like the one that the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church carried out – transforming society by the power of love, and with the unified effort of millions in service to others.  It’s an “apostolic revolution”, a “revolution of love”.  It is aimed at re-building a civilization of love from within the shell of our current corrupt civilization.  It builds on our strengths, and will do miracles in the face of opposition.

    This revolution is hard to see, because we tend to look at the small picture, the individual components, and we don’t see the larger reality.  But once you look for it, you will see it everywhere:

  • At the March for Life, with the tens of thousands of young people who are pro-life and unashamed.
  • In the growing chastity movement, an astonishing new development where good, happy, joyful young people openly seek to live lives of purity and to witness to the beauty of the virtue of chastity.
  • In the opinion polls, which show a genuine shift towards pro-life.  Recent polls by the Knights of Columbus show that 56% of Americans (and slightly larger percentages of younger people) view abortion as “morally wrong”, and 86% support restricting abortion.
  • In our religious leaders becoming bolder and clearer and stronger, even to the point of persecution.  We recall the case of Pastor Walter Hoye of Oakland, who was imprisoned for doing nothing more than holding a pro-life sign outside of an abortion clinic.  Remember, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church, and is the seed of our revolution.
  • In the growing commitment to vote for pro-life candidates.  We are reminded over and over again that the only way that we will get principled elected officials is if we insist that they adhere to principles, and not accept the “lesser of two evils” – the result if which, of course, is that we will only get evil.
  • In the explosion of apostolic work.  The great 40 Days for Life prayerful witness at abortion clinics has reached 238 locations and several foreign countries, and claims almost 3,000 lives saved and dozens of clinic workers converted.   Other prayer vigils take place every week, and give witness to the power of love and prayers.
  • In the new, openly pro-life religious communities (like our Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, and the Sisters of Life), which are booming.
  • Among our brothers and sisters in the evangelical community, who are also becoming more and more energized for pro-life.
  • In the Knights of Columbus, which is courageous in pro-life advocacy, and is sponsoring 3D and 4D sonograms for crisis pregnancy centers, which is saving lives.
  • Although we don’t see it too much here in New York, the change in culture towards pro-life is yielding significant legislative victories across the nation.  Most states now have reasonable and common-sense restrictions on abortion, laws requiring parental involvement, waiting periods and informed consent, limitations on public funding, conscience protection, bans on partial birth abortions and protecting the lives of the unborn against violence.

    The reality of our revolution is seen quite clearly by the forces of the Culture of Death, who are growing increasingly strident and desperate.  They regularly denounce people who hold completely mainstream positions on abortion – those held by the great majority of the American people – as “extremist” and “out of the mainstream”.  Such rhetoric only rebounds on them, showing that they are the true extremists.

    Of course, any revolution is “radical”.  Ours certainly is, but not in the negative way that word is usually used.  We’re “radical” in the same sense that Jesus is, because we want to get back to the root of things — that’s the original meaning of the word “radical”.

    This is an amazing revolution – a non-organized movement for radical change from within.  And it will advance by common-sense actions by regular people, rolling up their sleeves to speak the truth with love and serve others.  We are not mired in despair or discouragement, because we know the great capacity of the human heart for love.  We see this love in others, sometimes even in ourselves.  It’s a love that will attract more and more people to our revolution, it will convert hearts, one at a time, and it will build a better world, where life is revered and defended.

    When Pope John Paul came to America in 1999, he said this:

    “America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person.  The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life”

    So, I’m talking about a revolution for equal justice, true freedom, and lasting peace.  We’re dreaming great dreams, and together, in our revolution, we will do great things in defense of life.

    Why Did I Answer the Phone?

    Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

    I have to start out by saying that I resent the telephone.  It sits there on my desk, interrupts my train of thought, and brings nothing but trouble.  It requires me to engage with real, live people, which makes me uncomfortable.  I much prefer to deal with email, because it’s more efficient, and because I can do what I am comfortable with — looking intelligent, answering questions, and solving problems.  The phone makes me face my shyness with people, my insecurity, and my fear of emotional involvement.

    So, why did I answer the phone the other afternoon?

    I was rushing — as usual — between one meeting and another, from one task that I considered very important to another I thought was just as important.  That’s me, Mr. Too Busy and Important to Answer the Phone.  When it started to ring, and I didn’t recognize the number, I knew that answering it would make me late, and would throw me off my train of thought.  It was a most inconvenient time for a phone conversation of indeterminate subject and length.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    When I picked up the receiver, the young lady started out with a very relieved sound in her voice.  She explained that she had happened upon one of my earlier blog posts, in which I mentioned how we need to do more to help pregnant women in crisis, for example by providing more day care.

    She then went on to tell me that she was in exactly that position.  She was pregnant, alone, and was having a hard time figuring out how she was going to take care of her child and return to work.  She wasn’t sure if I could help her, because she didn’t live in the Archdiocese, but instead was in upstate New York.   But she was scared, and a little bit at the end of her rope.  She was asking me for help — real, concrete help, in the here and now.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    I talked to her for a while, telling her how there was definitely help out there for her.  I then gave her the best advice I could think of.

    I suggested that she call the Sisters of Life.  Their Visitation Mission specializes in helping women and men deal with the difficulties of a pregnancy, and they have innumerable connections all around the nation.   I have heard stories about their work that have moved me to tears.  So that was the first smart thing I did.  I told her about the Sisters.

    The second thing I did was to tell her that she should get in touch with her local diocese’s Catholic Charities.  Here in the Archdiocese, our Catholic Charities helps hundreds of pregnant women every year.  I know this, because their Maternity Services office is on the same floor as mine, and I’m constantly seeing moms, dads and babies.  They also work miracles.

    I then told her how great it was that she was doing the right thing, and that she would be able to do this with a little help.  I told her “God bless”, we said goodbye, and I offered a small prayer for her.  Afterwards, I realized that I never even asked her name.  But I believe she’ll be alright.

    So, why did I answer the phone?

    I don’t know.  But I think that the Holy Spirit, who moved my heart and will, and my guardian angel, who was whispering in my ear, know the answer to that one.  And maybe, someday, I’ll meet a young lady and a baby, and I’ll know the answer too.

    Pentecost in Albany

    Sunday, May 16th, 2010

    The men came came forth from where they were, and prayed aloud in the public areas of the town, proclaiming the love of God and the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ.  And the people of that place were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another “What does this mean?”

    The day of Pentecost was the first time when the Apostles of Christ proclaimed the Good News.  Heedless of the confusion and opposition of the world, the first bishops of our Church stood before the world, knowing that they would be opposed, and proclaimed our faith in Jesus.

    In a sense, all of us are called to do the same — to emulate the Apostles on the first Pentecost.

    And just so, the Knights of Columbus went to Albany on Tuesday, May 11, to hold the annual Prayer Rally. The purpose of the day was to pray publicly for our government, to encourage our elected officials to respect human life, to honor marriage, and to treat people of faith fairly.

    But it was not at all a political event.  More than anything, it was a Pentecost day.

    The setting of the Rally was striking.  We gathered in a small park in the center of Albany.  On one side was the New York State Capitol Building, one of the most striking works of public architecture in America, but which houses one of the worst, most dysfunctional, and most anti-life legislatures in our nation.  Around the other sides were government buildings, from the imposing classical-style Education Department to the modern Legislative Office Building.

    There was no mistaking that we were gathering to pray in the midst of the powers and principalities of this world.  Indeed, throughout the Rally, government workers and legislators passed through the park, enjoying the beautiful day, and no doubt amazed and perplexed by what they were seeing.

    The agenda for the Rally was simple.  The entire Rally was organized around the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary.  There were some speeches interspersed among the Mysteries,  but the entire focus of the Rally remained fixed upon our prayers to God, with the intercession of Mary.

    The most striking part was that you could hear the sacred words of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be reverberating against the government buildings, calling to mind the words of the prophet: “Hear what the LORD says: ‘Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.‘” (Mic 6:1)

    There is a unique power in the joined prayer of Christian people.  There is special strength when that prayer is offered in public by men.  The world shuns prayer, looking upon it as a peculiar habit.  The world cannot make sense of the prayers of men, and considers it a weakness.

    But on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were unafraid to give witness to the faith that gave them life.  Filled with the Spirit, they strode into the public square and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Last Tuesday, together with my brother Knights of Columbus, I was privileged to participate in a modern-day echo of that first great day of Pentecost.