Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the photos from the Kick-off Mass & Eucharistic Procession!
As I write this, we prepare to begin our Lenten 40 Days for Life on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood with a kick-off Mass and Eucharistic Procession tonight. A group of faithful men will keep the prayers going on the sidewalk throughout the night, until we officially begin our 40-day prayer vigil at 7am tomorrow. May God keep His Mighty Hand of protection upon all of us as we, who are called by His Name, humble ourselves and pray…seeking His Face and turning from our wicked ways. We are trusting in His Holy Word that He will hear us from Heaven, will forgive our sin and heal our land. (2 Chron. 7:14)
The readings that will be read tonight are perfect for us! The first reading today is from 1 Peter 1:10-16:
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.1 Peter 1 13-16
As I read this, I thought of what it means to “be holy“. Holiness seems to have a negative connotation in our world today. The world looks at “holiness” and thinks of someone who thinks they are better than everyone else. Someone or something totally disconnected from the “real world“. But in reality, the Hebrew understanding of “Holiness”, does not mean “piety” or “perfection“. It simply means to be “Set Apart” for God’s purpose…in order to do a specific job.
This is very important for our mission at 40 Days for Life….and it is very important to me personally. Actually, when the Lord first called me to lead 40 Days for Life in Pittsburgh, He said those very words to me. It is the only time in my life when I actually heard the Lord speak clearly to me. It was while I was driving to work one afternoon. I remember exactly where I was…on Unity Center Road, right in front of Unity Church in Plum. I was praying while I was driving, and all of a sudden, in my prayer…I knew God had just spoken to me. They were real, actual, clear words! The words were, “I want you to give up alcohol for the rest of this year.” The words were so clearly NOT from me, that I actually found myself talking out loud as I drove, and I argued with God. I said, “Lord, I can’t give up alcohol for the rest of the year!” (It was only March!!!) I heard him again, very clearly. He said:
I want you to give up alcohol for the rest of the year. I want to SET YOU APART FOR A PURPOSE.
The words “Set apart for a purpose” sunk into my heart, and I realized I was being called to do something for God. It turned out that the purpose was going to be leading 40 Days for Life. I obediently gave up alcohol for many years, and the Lord, in his kindness, made it very easy. Although I may drink occasionally now and then, His purpose has been accomplished in me, that He was setting me apart for. We now have a vibrant, thriving pro-life community that does not need me to lead, although I am happy to continue in this role until He calls someone else.
As I watched the movie, “Marry Me” (Jennifer Lopez), with my parents this past weekend, (my mom wanted to watch it…I suffered through it)…I realized how different we need to be from the world of today. We truly do need to be SET APART!!! The film was proof of the evil agenda that Hollywood has, to slither into the minds of our young people…to plant seeds of sin…to mock God and all that is good. It seeks to glamorous all that is harmful to souls and to make appear foolish all that would lead souls to happiness and salvation. Watching the movie was a mirror to the extent that our culture is lost…perhaps beyond all hope of restoration. I was not shy in expressing my thoughts to my parents as we watched the movie…but they could not understand my views. To them, it was simply an innocent, up-beat love story.
Being “Set Apart” from the culture is what 40 Days for Life is all about. Let’s face it…praying in front of abortion clinics is just not something that “normal people” do! I think back to my time in the evangelical church, and I have many happy memories of praising and worshipping God there. But one thing that sticks out in my mind is that we tried very hard in the evangelical church to look like the world. We dressed like the world, our music sounded like the world, we talked like the world. We wanted to be “cool” and “relevant”…and therefore “attractive” to the world. Our intentions were good. We thought that if we looked attractive to the world, that the world would be attracted to us, and would come into the fold and be evangelized. Sounds sensible…and maybe for a time it works. But now, at this point of the world’s complete descent into depravity…I think a different strategy is called for. Instead of trying to look like the world…I believe it is time for us to be as different from the world as possible!!! It is time to set ourselves completely apart from the world! Dress modestly! Act chastely! Speak boldly of God and the truths of the faith!
The Gospel reading for today is from Mark 10:28-31. In this reading, Peter is asking Jesus what those of us who have given up all to follow Him will receive. Jesus answers:
Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.Mark 10:28-31
Don’t you just love how Jesus “sneaks” in the word “persecution” into the list of all the wonderful things we will receive for following Him? I love the Lord…He has a sense of humor! He is such a good Father, Brother, Friend, Spouse and Savior. He loves us so much. He wants to pour out his blessings upon us, as we empty ourselves of worldly pleasures in order to be able to receive his blessings. But He wants us to know that there will indeed come persecutions. But compared to the blessings…the persecutions are hardly worth mentioning. They are just buried in the list of blessings.
Tonight, we may be persecuted. We will see. But we have each other, and more importantly, we belong to the Lord. We are owned by HIM. We do not belong to ourselves. We, who formally were “owned” by the devil…now are “owned” by our loving Lord, Jesus Christ. If God is for us, who can be against us?
Thank you for allowing me to ramble in my thoughts and reflections. If you took the time to read this, I hope it encourages you to persevere through these next 40 days. Whatever comes, God will be with us. We trust in Him, and in the prayers of his Blessed Mother to protect and guide us. In the photo above, you will see Fr. Jason Charon, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Church in Pittsburgh, as he held our Lord in Blessed Sacrament in front of Planned Parenthood during a Eucharistic Procession a couple years ago. Many on our team have been praying and fasting in a special way for him, as he has been on a very dangerous mission for the past four days. He does not wish anything specific to be put into print, but please pray and fast for him. He would have been at our Mass tonight, but will not be able to be there because of the circumstances of his mission.
Enjoy these beautiful photos
The All-Night Vigil began with Santiago and Chris from 9-11pm, joined by Santos, Bill, Will and Jon for the 11pm-1am shift. Photos from the later hours will be posted here if I get some.