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March 5, 2011
Homily: "40 Days for Life"
Most Rev. James D. Conley, S.T.L., Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, delivered the following homily during the Opening Mass for the 2011 "40 Days for Life" Pro-Life Campaign, at St. James Parish in Denver, Colorado.
I want to begin by thanking Fr. Felix Medina for hosting this opening Mass for our Lenten 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Fr. Felix has been a great champion for the cause for life and has always opened the doors here at St. James the Less, my patron saint, to host a pro-life Mass on Saturdays at 8:15am. Your proximity to the Planned Parenthood abortion mill has also been providential. Saint James is also the sight of our first Gabriel House, thanks to the generosity of Fr. Felix. I would like to also welcome to Fr. John Paul Leyba, who will speak at the rally.
Also, I would like thank to Rosalinda Lozano who cannot be here today because her son is graduating from Marine boot camp this weekend. Rosalinda has been an inspiration to all of us regarding the importance of on-site peaceful and prayerful presence at the abortion facility. Also, I’m very happy to see such a wide collaborative effort of solidarity with our brothers and sisters from Boulder County led by Bob Gilson, and the Fort Collins-Greeley area led by Linda O’Brien.
I am very excited about this 40 Days for Life campaign this Lent and the effect it will have on our community, particularly in those communities where these child-killing centers operate, Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.
I would like to focus my homily on three points: 1) prayer, 2) presence, and 3) hope.
On the first Saturday of the month we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary: she is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. It is providential that we begin this campaign of prayer and fasting on this first Saturday and with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Without prayer we are powerless. We are engaged first and foremost in a spiritual battle. The pro-life movement is not a political movement, nor is it a philosophical or theological movement – it is a spirituality! It is at the very heart of what it means to be Christian and Catholic. This is the call of the gospel, to love our neighbor, particularly the least of our brothers and sisters - the child in the womb and his/her mother who is in distress.
We must stand in radical solidarity with both the children and their mothers who are scheduled to die and be wounded. We must love them both! She is not the stranger, she is not the enemy. We reject abortion, but we do not reject those who get abortions. Never should we allow our anger towards this evil to be directed to the women! This is why we must extend the mercy of God in the Church. Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard are excellent ministries which extend the mercy of God to women who have suffered the trauma of an abortion.
We can only do this through prayer. This is also true in dealing with the other side. There are countless stories of conversions through the peaceful and prayerful witness of pro-lifers: Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Carol Everett, Abby Johnson, just to name a few.
I mentioned Dr. Bernard Nathanson who just died last week and was buried from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the presence of the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. This is the same cathedral where this former Jew, atheist, abortionist, and co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) was received into the Catholic Church in 1996.
I will never forget him giving a talk, and saying with his hands outstretched and tears in his eyes: “these hands are responsible for over 75,000 abortions!”
But what caused him to change his ways was the example and witness of those willing to lay down their lives and endure the scorn and humiliation of society to be present at these killing centers. He speaks about this is his autobiography, “Touched by the Hand of God.” Also, ultrasound technology, of which he was a pioneer, had a huge impact on his thinking. His two films: “Silent Scream” and “Eclipse of Reason” had a tremendous impact on the pro-life movement.
In his autobiography, Dr. Nathanson wrote that “in the early 70s we knew our biggest obstacle was the Catholic Church. We had money, the media, and the popular social trends on our side, but the Church was big. We caught the Church asleep!”
After his conversion, he worked tirelessly to make sure the Church would never be asleep at the wheel again. He knew that the key to social engineering was first to capture verbal engineering and so they coined the term “pro-choice.”
This is why he produced the video “Eclipse of Reason.” Why are we killing our children? It doesn’t make sense; it is irrational - simple as that. And so with ultrasound technology, Dr. Nathanson went about showing that the child in the womb is real!
Blessed John Henry Newman often speaks about moving from mere notional assent to a truth to real assent. This is what the reality of ultrasound does. It makes the baby real to us.
This is why presence is so important. It is transformative and it changes you.
I remember when I lived in Wichita and we would go out to Dr. Tiller’s clinic and I would see license plates from all over the United States traveling to Wichita for their “late-term” abortions. Wichita, back then, was the abortion capital. There were three very active facilities. Today – there are no more clinics in Wichita. Wichita is abortion-free!
This is why you need to bring a friend out who has never been. Everyone should have this as a goal.
An abortion facility is the modern day Calvary, where innocence and evil meet. Bishop Gerber, the bishop who ordained me a priest, would often speak about this. We need to be there in prayer - at the foot of the Cross.
Since 1996 over half the abortion facilities have closed. We are winning this battle.
Over half the U.S. public identifies themselves as pro-life.
Ultrasound technology has given us a window into the womb. The Knights of Columbus ultrasound project is making an enormous impact and saving lives by helping provide ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers across the country.
Truth and science are on our side. The only thing we don’t have is money, the media and politicians – no big deal.
The policies and operations of Planned Parenthood are being exposed by people like Lila Rose - the abortion industry is on its heels.
We also have the youth on our side. One only needs to look at the annual March for Life. It gets younger and younger each year.
There are many reasons for hope and confidence and no reason to be discouraged.
So, let us continue to pray for wisdom as we heard in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, “When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. I prayed for her before the temple, and I will seek her until the end.”
We are encouraged and strengthened to hear in today’s Gospel that Christ is our Authority.
God bless you.