Today is the day! We kick off our 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood tonight! Please join us for Holy Mass at 6:30pm at Divine Mercy Parish, Epiphany Church as we gather together the Body of Christ in this epic battle to end abortion! (Please do not bring any flags or signs for the candlelit procession that could be misconstrued as being political in nature. Candles, rosaries, statues or images of our Lord and our Lady are the only “signs” participants should carry.) Protesters will be in front of the church to intimidate us, but do not argue or respond in any way to their taunts. As Jesus was silent before His accusers, so we will imitate our Lord by our silent prayers. These pro-aborts have started a petition to pressure Fr. Chris from hosting our 40 Days for Life events at his church, and have targeted his church by defacing statues during the last kick-off…so it may happen again. He is really sticking his neck out for us, so please help us to support his parish, which has many ministries to our city, including the Red Door and Brother Andre’s cafe. A free will offering will be taken at the Mass tonight to help his parish and its ministries, so please come prepared to give as generously as you can.
Those who have survived…
The title for this reflection is from yesterday’s (Monday’s) Mass readings. From the book of Ezra, we are told that King Cyrus of Persia set the captives of Israel free and told them to return to their homeland of Jerusalem to rebuild their temple which had been completely destroyed generations before. As I read this, I thought about the comparison to what we do when we gather for these Masses and Eucharistic Processions. King Cyrus announced:
All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.Ezra1
Just as Israel’s religion was decimated with the destruction of the temple…we are living in similar times. Just as there was a remnant of Israel left…who had survived...so there is now a remnant of faithful Christians who have survived the global onslaught of atheism, secularism and paganism. Just as the small number of Israelites were able to rebuild the temple because God was with them…so we are rebuilding the Church of God. If not in our land or our world…then at least in our hearts and families.
Every time we are together, united behind Christ, and we face persecution, it serves to strengthen our faith. Image for a moment how utterly strange we must appear to those who see us...priests, deacons, servers and seminarians in long shiny robes…a large golden monstrance being held reverently…with a shining white host in the middle. Hundreds of people praying and singing through the dark streets of our city…holding candles in their hands. This sort of thing is completely foreign to most people nowadays. They don’t know what to make of us! We are reminded that we really are called to be set apart from the world, and not conformed to it. As the second reading from yesterday says:
No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.Luke 8
The world has utterly rejected and forgotten God. We pray that all will come to know of His goodness, majesty and power. But in the meantime, we continue to build the house of the Lord, in our own hearts and souls and minds.
Whoever has survived. That’s us. Praise be to God!
I will leave you with a beautiful quote that I read yesterday from St. Ephrem of Syria:
In your bread is hidden the Spirit that cannot be eaten. In your wine dwells the fire that cannot be drunk. Your Spirit in the bread and the fire in your cup are true miracles, which our lips receive.
When the Lord came down to earth, to mortal men, he made of them a new creation. As in the angels he mingled fire and spirit, that they might be of fire and spirit in a hidden way.
The seraph did not bring the living coal near with his fingers. It did not come close to Isaiah’s mouth. He did not himself lay hold of it or eat it. But to us the Lord has given them both.
To the Angelic spirits Abraham brought food, and they ate. Now comes a new miracle, that our mighty Lord gives bodily creatures both fire and Spirit as food and drink…
As fire came down on the sacrifice of Elijah and consumed it, the fire of mercy has become for us a living sacrifice. Fire ate up the offerings, and we, O Lord, have eaten your fire in your offering…In the bread and the cup is fire and the Holy Spirit.St. Ephrem of Syria (4th Century)
Enjoy these photos from tonight’s kick-off event…it was an amazing evening! Thanks to all who attended, and especially to all the priests, deacons and seminarians who sacrificed their time to be there!
It was encouraging to see so many priests, deacons and seminarians come to help us kick-off these 40 days: Fr. Chris Donley, Fr. Mario Majano, Fr. Joe Freedy, Fr. David Schmidt, Fr. Dan Waruszewski, Fr. Jason Charon, Fr. John Sweeney, Fr. John Brennan, Fr. Jim Kurtz and one that I don’t know his name (my apologies!). Also, Deacon Jeff Formica, Deacon Bill Strathmann and Deacon Dave McLaughlin, along with about 10 seminarians from St. Vincent College and many from St. Paul Seminary!
Beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe statue brought by John from St. Matthew parish and carried in the procession…thank you John! Thanks to the inspiration of 40 Days for Life team member, Conrad (center), our 40 Days for Life was consecrated to Our Lady of Guadalupe tonight! The image that Conrad has acquired will be held at our vigil during these 40 days! Thanks to Ian and his talented schola (right) for the heavenly atmosphere during Mass…the music was beautiful!
Fr. Mario gave an inspiring homily, including the story of his courageous mother who chose life three times, each time being tempted to abort because of overwhelming situations. Thanks to her choosing life, he is here, along with his two siblings. It was an amazing story!
After the Mass, Fr. Mario carries our Lord in the Monstrance, as he leads us out into the night…past the angry protesters and into the beautiful night.
We had company as we processed…a man on a bicycle accompanied us and screamed insults at us. That only caused us to pray for him all the more. One of the things he kept saying was that he left the Catholic Church because of all the hypocrites. If he is reading this blog, I would just like to say one thing to him: My brother…if you have been baptized, then eternal life in Heaven is your BIRTHRIGHT! Why would you let anyone steal that from you? Even if the Church is full of hypocrites, as you say it is…why would you let them chase you out? You are God’s beloved child, and He wants you to be with Him in Heaven someday. Come back to Him and don’t worry about the so-called hypocrites. We all are hypocritical in some ways…it’s called being human.
We arrive at Planned Parenthood and our valiant priest/soldier of Christ holds up the monstrance to bless us. You can’t tell from the photo, but our friend on the bicycle was directly behind him (behind the cloth)…screaming insults at the top of his lungs as Fr. Mario prayed. Thank you Fr. Mario for your fearless witness tonight!
Thank you to John and his Knights from St. Matthew parish for carrying the Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe! It was comforting to look at her beautiful face while we were kneeling in prayer. As our united prayers drowned out the angry shrieks of our lone protester…I couldn’t help but smile as I imagined our Heavenly Mother looking down on all of us.
Thanks to Lisa for taking these awesome pictures! I love this one especially! To see young parents bring their children to something like this…which could possibly be dangerous…is such an act of faith and is so encouraging to me! I was telling Jen as we drove back to the church in her car that I wonder if God is allowing us to have these Masses and processions to build faith and grow the family of God. He is doing this, not so much for us old people…but for the young! When I think about the kids who grow up in churches where everyone is old…and bored. They grow up thinking the faith is outdated and something from the past…and sadly, most young people end up leaving the Church. But when I see these little ones with their parents, kneeling in the street…with angry protesters cursing and swearing at them…I think the impression that must be made in their little souls is that this is IMPORTANT! This faith thing…it MATTERS! I think seeds are being planted very deeply in some young hearts and minds. And I hope in some fallen away souls as well.
Thanks to all who took part in our kick off event tonight (I estimate there were about 300 people!). And thanks for all who prayed from home, and all who will help us to maintain our 40 day prayer vigil on the sidewalk! May God bless us all!
Your sister in Christ, through Mary,