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2017 Pro-Life Prayer Service… Keeping Vigil With The Unborn

September 27, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


(Editor’s Note: Fr. Thomas Sullivan was ordained in 2016 and his first assignment was to St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood, Mass. He is already known there for giving great homilies, for concluding each Mass with the prayers said at the end of Mass before Vatican II, and for being available to hear Confessions after each Mass he celebrates.
(He spoke at a National Day of Remembrance vigil on September 9 at the Monument to the Unborn in front of the K of C Hall in Norwood. The service included Scripture readings, the rosary, prayers of petition, singing, and Fr. Sullivan’s talk.
(That talk is reprinted below with the kind permission of Fr. Sullivan.)

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There’s something about keeping vigil that bears good fruit. The whole Christian Life has the quality of a vigil. We wait . . . we stay on guard . . . the Catholic should always be on alert. We’re living in the end times . . . the time between Christ’s Glorious Ascension and His Second Coming when He will judge us all, to our glory or to our shame.
This long vigil bears fruit, because our waiting is not an idle waiting. We’re not just lounging around with the occasional glance up at the sky, wondering when Christ will come and “do His thing.” Our waiting is an active thing — our Vigil is a preparation.
The casual Christian will soon become the practical atheist. It’s like the old saying goes: There’s no standing still in the spiritual life…you’re either moving forward or you’re falling behind. Our preparation for Christ’s coming boils down to this: Increasing Charity in our souls. It’s what we’ll be judged on. Do I love God with my whole heart and soul and strength, and do I love my neighbor as myself for the love of God?
Everything in the Christian Life is ordered to that end. When we’re living in Charity — in other words, when we’re in a state of grace — then all our good actions become meritorious of Heaven. And the more we merit, the greater our glory will be in the next life. Mary is the proof of that…no saint could hope to attain the heights of majesty that the Queen of Heaven enjoys with her Son.
It’s impossible to talk about merit and Charity without talking about the virtue of Fortitude, by which we persevere in embracing the good in the face of opposition or great difficulty. We know that doing what’s right often comes at a personal cost. Persevering through persecution requires a charitable soul, but it also increases and strengthens that Charity. Persecution can’t kill Charity; only sin kills charity. But sin is self-defeating: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”
The greatest evil, the death of Christ on the cross, becomes our greatest good. Satan’s greatest victory winds up being his own undoing. Christ enters death and shatters its power.

A Long Fight

I think the same is true of abortion. It’s been a long fight with many setbacks and betrayals — but great evils become the occasion for an abundance of grace. The fight against abortion is a long and difficult one, but that’s what perseverance is, and perseverance leads to much merit and an overflowing of Charity.
Charity — Divine Love — will have the final victory in this fight. But there are souls to be saved and innocent lives to be protected in the meantime, so our assurance of victory shouldn’t make us complacent. We fight this fight with argument and political engagement, but primarily with virtue and holiness. The only way to drive out Sin is with Charity…it’s the only way.
As I said at the start, keeping vigil bears great fruit, because the Christian’s vigil is an exercise in increasing Charity and being the means for God’s sanctification of the whole world.
In the pro-life movement we see the importance of keeping vigil: faithful men and women standing long hours in front of abortion clinics around the country, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Mother with the rosary, appealing to the Lord in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, fasting and offering up other penances.
And it works. Their witness has turned many desperate women away from those doors; their kind words have helped give many a frightened mother Hope. Young souls have been preserved from sin, and younger lives have been preserved from death because of the charitable vigils kept by the Lord’s disciples.
I’ve been thinking about the pro-life movement in terms of keeping vigil for a reason. It occurred to me this past First Friday at St. Catherine’s during eucharistic adoration. All these elements — vigil and merit and charity — come together powerfully in eucharistic adoration.
It’s no wonder that there’s such overlap between people who go to adoration and people who are active in the pro-life movement. The contemplative serves as the only firm foundation for the active.
In the Eucharist we meet the source of Charity…we meet the one who destroys death…God Himself, the Eternal Son. In adoration we exercise our love of God, we grow in Charity, and that spurs us on to the love of neighbor, including the littlest neighbor, the unseen neighbor in the womb.
I think in a very special way we are stirred to defend the unborn. Adoration is all about reckoning with what is unseen. Eucharistic adoration forces us to confront hidden realities. If someone is going to persevere in that Eucharistic Vigil, he needs Charity in his soul…but he also has to ask himself a question.
“Why am I here at midnight, kneeling in front of what looks like a wafer of bread?”
It’s a good question and you need a good answer, otherwise you might as well be home in bed.
And of course, there is a good answer. It’s an answer that, I think, increases our sensitivity to the plight of the unborn. We cannot see Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, but we know by faith that He is really, substantially present. The appearance of bread remains — what is changed is the substance — and we don’t see substances. That bread truly becomes the Body of Christ, and with it comes His Precious Blood, His Human Soul, and His Divinity — the whole Christ.
We can know the doctrine of transubstantiation by faith, and we can explain it reasonably.
There’s something analogous with the unborn child. That single cell that is formed by the sperm and the egg doesn’t look like a human being. That tiny embryo doesn’t look like a human being. It is weeks before the child in the womb starts to look human. And yet by Reason we know that it is. By Reason and by Faith we know that it has an immortal soul. And because it has an immortal soul, it has the awesome dignity of being made for Divine Life. It has the capacity for Charity, to love with a Divine Love.
Such a creature should never be deprived of exercising those gifts. The Catholic who kneels before the Holy Eucharist in adoration knows that not all truth is seeable with the eye. The Catholic who adores Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is far more likely to defend the unborn child in the womb — I think experience bears that out.
The Christ we adore in the Eucharist is the whole Christ . . . it’s the Christ who was a blastocyst . . . it’s the Christ who was an embryo . . . it’s the Christ who was a fetus . . . it’s the Christ who passed through infancy and adolescence and adulthood.
It’s all the One Jesus Christ who took on our human nature and lived that human life to maturity. The whole life of Christ, the whole Gospel, is present in the Eucharist. And His mission of sanctification is extended throughout His Church by the sacrament. The human nature that He assumed at His conception is present under the appearance of bread and wine. If the Son never became Man in the Incarnation there would be no Eucharist. We worship Jesus as God in Adoration, but we also adore his Sacred Humanity.
His Incarnation gives new dignity to human nature — to all men. In a way, any deliberate violence against an innocent human life is a sin against the Incarnation and a denigration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Conversely, our adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament can only serve to increase our respect for the dignity of all human life. Eucharistic adoration is a profoundly powerful weapon against abortion and the Culture of Death. Obviously, not many people go to eucharistic adoration, just as most don’t go to Mass. They’re not meditating on these matters.
That’s why Christ calls His disciples the Salt of the Earth. The saint is a preservative. We cannot always see the effects of what we do, but we know by faith that we can merit countless blessings — invisible graces — that can prompt the sinner to conversion. We may not see the results in this lifetime, but we’ll be shown them in the next . . . if we persevere.

He Solves People’s Problems

I encourage you to stick to your resolve. Persevere in the pro-life movement and root it in your devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
I’ll give the last word to G.K. Chesterton:
“If I am to answer the question, ‘How would Christ solve modern problems if He were on Earth today,’ I must answer it plainly; and for those of my faith there is only one answer. Christ is on Earth today; alive on a thousand altars; and He does solve people’s problems exactly as He did when He was on Earth in the more ordinary sense. That is, He solves the problems of the limited number of people who choose of their own free will to listen to Him.”

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