‘Pray to End Abortion’ is the concise slogan of the 40 Days for Life campaign. This exhortation implies that it is possible to bring an end to abortion – completely. In the political arm of the pro-life movement it is all too common to abandon hope in this absolute and default to the pragmatic position of abortion reduction rather than eradication. The misguided belief that abortion can made be ‘safe, legal and rare’ is all too commonly accompanied with scorn for those who believe that the eradication of the scourge of abortion is achievable. We say that it is not just possible but imperative, lest our civilisation slide all the way down this slippery slope and into the pit of Hell itself.
How can we make such a bold claim that an end to abortion is within our grasp? Because Our Lord is with us and we know it is within His grasp to make this hope a reality. If it is within His grasp then what is he waiting for? Our repentance. Our Conversion. Our participation in his suffering and death.
For many years now after the shining example of Msgr Phillip Reilly of New York, the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants have taken this prayer to end abortion right to the front gates of the chambers of death themselves – the abortion mills. These typically small bands of faithful have held aloft the light of Christ at these places of darkness, week in and week out. If you speak to any of them you will hear tell of engagement in a spiritual battle rather than flesh and blood. I dare say they are more acutely aware of the real nature of this battle than those who choose the comfort of being pro-life from a distance. Of course it is not only darkness that they perceive from their vantage point but light, as they experience first hand Christ winning the battle for life through prayer and penance.
The 40 Days For Life campaigns are in essence the same as the mission of the Helpers although intensified over a non-stop 40 days of prayer. It gives an opportunity for those who are not willing or able to make the weekly or monthly commitment of the Helpers to place their drop in the bucket and come to a prayer vigil during the penitential season of Lent – and every drop counts. It is also an opportunity to create a more intensive community outreach and awareness – it is not easy for our communities to ignore the continual presence of prayer on the streets for the duration of 40 days!
To prepare ourselves for this bold undertaking I offer you a passage taken from the words of St. Peter Chrysologus. He was the bishop of Ravenna, Italy in the middle of the 5th century. His sermons were so inspiring that he was given the title ‘Chrysologus’ (Greek for ‘Golden-worded’) and was later declared a Doctor of the Church. This reading was chosen by the Church for the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 3rd week of Lent as a quintessential teaching on prayer and fasting.
There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. “Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other”.
Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.
When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.
Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.
Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defence, a threefold united prayer in our favour.
Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.
Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.
To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.
When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.”[Sermo 43: PL 52, 320, 322]
It is very important that our efforts are wedded to the Church and conformed to Her mission. On that score I am very pleased to announce that in the footsteps of numerous US bishops, Bishop Julian Porteous has fully endorsed 40 Days For Life and offered to be our patron. Furthermore he has approved the inclusion of a program of Eucharistic adoration in a location very proximate to the particular abortion mill we are targeting. Those who are not able to pray on the street in the daylight hours will be able to sign on for the adoration roster right through the 40 days between dusk and dawn. Fr John Corapi has said repeatedly that if we opened adoration chapels adjacent to every abortion mill we would end abortion with a decade.
Brisbane ran the first ever 40 Days campaign in Australia in Lent 2009 and recorded over 300 participants. With the reach and the networking skills of our young dynamic team and with your support I believe we can double or even triple this number.
Our annual Day of the Unborn Child March from St Mary’s Cathedral to the NSW Parliament happily falls two thirds of the way through the campaign. With numbers approaching 2500 last year I would expect an increase this year as we are marrying the two events together. Immediately following the march, Family Life International will be hosting an evening at the Shark Hotel function room to keep our spirits high and enable us to make the final push through to Palm Sunday.
The National Campaign Director from the US (where 40 Days originated) David Bereit has recently been in contact and said that the whole US 40 Days leadership is very excited that Sydney is now on the map with the campaign. These words should not only encourage us but help us to relaise that while we pray and fast this Lent there will be thousands of faithful souls in some 165 cities including 2 others in Australia doing likewise at every moment.
I would like to remind you our faithful supporters that conducting a campaign of this scale requires financing. Despite the financial times we have some generous support over the Christmas period in response to our last appeal but we need more help. Please continue to lend us your support in this way. For promotion and fundraising we also have 40 days t-shirts and caps for sale which we encourage you to purchase and particularly to wear during the campaign. We have good range of sizes and colours.
Before you decide whether to log on to our website www.40daysforlife.com/sydney and sign up…please consider that in 40 days 4,600,000 babies are murdered worldwide – 800 of them just in the time it took you to read this article. In the face of such staggering numbers how can we speak of reduction? We must pray to END abortion.