Sermon From the Second Annual Nellie Gray Mass

February 1, 2014

Icon Mary reaches for boy JesusSome people believe that the contemplative religious life is irrelevant to the conditions of the world. But here we have proof that such a viewpoint could not be more wrong. The men and women called by God to withdraw from the world are not hiding from it and the evil that abounds in it. Instead, they bring a perspective to it that shared, as in the sermon preached by the Right Reverend Philip Anderson, Abbot of Our Lady of Clear Creek, strengthens those of us who are on the front lines of the battle with the powers of darkness. We cannot do without this fruit of contemplation or we are likely to grow weary and fall. We complete one another in our witness to the Gospel. With permission of the Abbot the text follows.

St. Mary, Mother of God Church
Washington, D.C.
January 22, 2014
Feast of Saints Vincent (of Saragossa) and Anastasius (Magi, monk)

Your Excellency,
Dear members of the Paulus Institute,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially, dear Marchers for Life:

It has all been said.  The case for the protection of the unborn against the evil of elective abortion, sanctioned by laws purporting to justify this social crime, has been clearly, articulately, forcefully, and coherently set forth.  Popes, such as Blessed John Paul II, kings, like King Baudouin of Belgium, scientists, for example Professor Jerome Lejeune, who discovered the genetic cause of Down Syndrome, poets, artists, men and women of every walk of life, have proclaimed to the very ends of the earth the Gospel of Life, in all its richness and power.  It has all been said, not only by Catholics and by other Christians, but also by people of different religious convictions.  It has all been said. But the world did not listen.

Perhaps that is why, already forty years ago, Nellie Gray saw that, in addition to this proclamation of the cause of the unborn, the defenders of life needed to “vote with their feet” and come to the nation’s capital in order to seek respect for the sacred right to life, inscribed in the United States Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps the message had to be brought to the very steps of the White House and of the Supreme Court. And so it is that many of you are here, having participated in this year’s March for Life, four decades after the very first one in 1974.

Sadly, despite the millions who have made the March for Life, the law of the land continues to sanction abortion.  In describing in more recent times the dismembering of an innocent child in its mother’s womb as ‘healthcare,’ we have taken the art of the euphemism to a level never before imagined. Why is this?  What more can we do?

Sometimes in our more solemn moments we have to lift our minds and hearts above the scene of this world in order to get a perspective on what happens here below.  This is the way monks view the world.  The Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of Saint John, unveils for us something of the state of the Holy Innocents, who await the Judgment of God.

“When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Apoc. 6:9-11).

On this feast of Saint Vincent the Deacon and of Saint Anastasius the Magus turned monk, both martyrs of Christian antiquity, these perspectives are all the more poignant. They tell something about the souls of the victims of abortion.

We too must bear witness to God – perhaps as martyrs – we too must wait for God’s hour.  But, unlike the souls described in the Apocalypse, we have work to do in the Lord’s vineyard.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is suggesting we add another dimension to the Pro-Life Movement.  The reality is easy enough to verify: it is precisely in those societies where greed and arrogant ambition impel people to grasp after material goods beyond reasonable measure, where the so-called “quality of life” means quantity of possessions – especially of money, amassed to a very large degree – it is precisely in such societies that abortion becomes, as it were, something necessary for the maintaining of a high standard of living in terms of material wealth.

Thus we need to reinforce the Gospel of Life with a strong reaffirmation of the Gospel of the Beatitudes.  The poor in spirit love the family and cherish children.  The poor in spirit content themselves with the good things that God sends them, with their “daily bread.” The poor in spirit have a horror of abortion and of every sort of practice that destroys or endangers the family.

But there is more.  If the essential work of the Gospel of Life, strengthened by the Gospel of the Beatitudes – in a word, if the New Evangelization, the continuation of the very work started by the Apostles and handed down from generation to generation – is to have any effect on the world, it must spring from the same spiritual source that moved the Apostles to conquer the world for Christ.  Here is what I mean. One day Our Lord, having been left alone by His Apostles, who had business elsewhere, gave Himself to the work of preaching the Gospel, one-on-one, to a Samaritan woman He met by Jacob’s well.  He showed us, as we read the account in the Gospel according to Saint John, how the process works.  The story is familiar to you.  Once Jesus had shown this woman that He was a prophet and more than a prophet, knowing the rather troubled story of her life, He proceeded to underline a most essential thing, saying,

“Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father.  You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and truth.  For the Father also seeketh such to adore him.  God is spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4: 21-24).

The practice of abortion is based on a lie.  It kills both physical life, that of the unborn child, and spiritual life, that of the mother and of all who directly bring it about.  Satan is the father of lies, as Our Lord tells us (Jn. 8:44).  Satan is the father of abortion too and of the entire “culture of death” denounced by Blessed John Paul II.  So, this is spiritual warfare as well as a matter of political and social justice.  In seeking to correct this evil it is most important to start at the beginning, with adoration, which is the worship of the one true God in spirit and in truth. In a word: contemplation must precede action.

Let there be no doubt: we have won.  Christ’s blood poured out, more eloquent than that of Abel (cf. Heb. 12:24), has redeemed the world, consecrating for all eternity the Gospel of Life and condemning to the exterior shadows the pretensions of the culture of death.  But in order for the victory to be given its full extent there is still work to be done. We must continue to work and to walk.

There would be much more to say.  We are celebrating Holy Mass this evening in a beloved church dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of God, Mother of Life, Mother of Hope.  The Marian dimension of the Catholic faith waxes ever stronger and more vital as the centuries go on.  This dimension is essential to all our pro-life endeavors.

Finally, in order for the March for Life to have its maximum effect, the marchers must conserve that most precious legacy of the faith which is authentic Christian joy.  This is not the superficial joy of a “party culture”, but the deep-seated gladness and sense of celebration that comes from belonging to God.

So go forth, go out to proclaim with joy the truth.  Keep marching; keep walking, not only to the White House, but all the way to the new and heavenly Jerusalem, where abortion and euthanasia and the entire culture of death will be no more. It has all been said, but like Nellie Gray we have to keep saying it.  Keep loving – for God is Love, true Love. Keep walking. As Saint Paul says, “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).  Amen.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Saturday, February 1st, 2014 Blessed Virgin, Catholic culture, pro-life

8 Comments to Sermon From the Second Annual Nellie Gray Mass

  1. I also wrote about the work to be done, on my blog. If I may discuss particulars, I could summarize by saying the pro-life movement must become both more spiritual and more temporal. It is a scandal to us or on us that the Faith is offered so little by those ‘crisis centers’ funded largely by Catholics but apparently controlled by secularism, because it is only secular ‘advice’ pregnant women receiving material help there get. One has to look hard at it, because the ‘back of the house’ is so very Catholic (one center I know best has a twenty-four hour adoration chapel as part of the operation, and one cannot walk through the staff area without tripping over statues and shrines) while the front of the house, where the clients are allowed, has nothing to ‘give it away’ as a religious place. Although the excuse given is that any hint of religion might drive away the women waiting there to get ‘talked to’ about their pregnancy, it would be logistically possible to separate those women from the rest of the clientele, women who have decided to keep their child rather than abort it and subsequently return several times to get material help, merely by the use of a side door and the back stairs. You can investigate the depth of the Catholic connection yourself by taking a new look at one of the post-abortion counseling initiatives, the ‘Rachels.’ You will simply not find Catholicism there. No invitations to study the Faith. No articles about the importance of baptism to the newly born baby. No articles about sin or heaven or hell, or the Blessed Virgin. Apparently those teachings are only for the staff. It is the fault of all our Catholic services,now, hospitals and hospices and rest homes and schools, and is sometimes called a lack of ‘Catholic identity’ but staff at the centers will say, when asked, that it is the policy of ecumenism as taught at Vatican II and followed since in the entire Church, including Rome. They would be wrong to ‘proselytize,’ it would be like coercion. So the clients are not invited into the chapel, or to learn about the Faith.

    There is also temporal work to be done. We really have to enlarge our focus just on abortion only. We must include contraception and divorce. We must really develop a political platform that will suggest social policies to help women marry, help families earn enough to have children, and cover those realities that make abortion such an attractive sin. We have to address housing and the cost of education. We must in short struggle as Hungary has recently done to build an independent party, and that party could aim at a religious state which will put God back in the picture, as Hungary has done. If we decide to fight (or ‘to work’) then we have to develop an organization and a platform. Money, time, thought. I recommend Jonathan Last’s ‘What To Expect When No One’s Expecting’ because he has unwittingly written a very practical pro-life platform.

    In short, we must demand more from the pro-life movement. The present gains are not because of the correctness of their near-sighted political position but because the world is about to wake up to its demographic situation and withdraw abortion on their own initiative, without restoring marriage or anything else to women. The present gains can even be seen as dangerous to women, in the absence of any sustained attempt by us to restore our civic life in God.

  2. Janet Baker on February 1st, 2014
  3. Let’s add euthanasia of the elderly and disabled and neglect of the elderly to the point of death to the pro-life platform. It’s all of us who are weak who will be destroyed to suit the state.

  4. barb on February 1st, 2014
  5. Barb:
    What a powerful homily. Thanks fo rposting it. I have shared it with everyone I know.
    Michael Seagriff recently posted..Any Chance We Will Hear This Truth On Super Bowl Sunday?

  6. Michael Seagriff on February 1st, 2014
  7. wonderful
    melanie jean juneau recently posted..St. John Bosco: Dreamer of Prophetic Dreams

  8. melanie jean juneau on February 1st, 2014
  9. Thanks, Michael. I love the Abbot’s sermons. They make me want to work harder to be holy.

  10. barb on February 1st, 2014
  11. Barb, yes, it’s true, about euthanasia. It’s already happening all around us. Here in Chicago’s senior citizen centers they provide ‘free’ legal services (it actually turns out to be just really really cheap legal services) one of which is the so-called Living Will, and so I went for a will and the guy printed out the Living Will one, too, and shoved it over for my signature. Well, why not, I thought, but glanced over it first, and I was just completely amazed that it said that I was asking that I not be resuscitated for any reason whatsoever in case of loss of consciousness. But it was in such convoluted language I had to read it several times before I understood (of course the Catholic teaching is, you don’t GET to reject resuscitation if it is an ordinary means to fix a problem not related to the terminal illness for which you are being treated–like say you had a heart attack while you’re getting treated for cancer). And all those old people are signing it! I tried to get someone higher up from the city to listen to me, that the seniors do not understand what they are signing and how horrible this is, but I have given up. As soon as people see legal language, they throw up their hands in surrender. And a friend in Pennsylvania could not renew her nursing license because they now require a class in euthanasia for recertification. Yeah, it’s already happening, they’re just keeping it nice and quiet. They’ve discovered if they don’t publicize things, we just go along. The whole thing caused me to talk to our priest and he had a class on Catholic teaching on the matter for us.

  12. Janet Baker on February 2nd, 2014
  13. American Life League has a will that is simple and straightforward and is quite the opposite of what you described here. You must call them and order it. Last I dealt with them the wills were $10. Whenever I go for even outpatient surgery I tell them in the presence of witnesses that no one is allowed to kill me by any means whatsoever. That includes slipping a little something into my IV, withholding water and/or food, or refusing to resuscitate me if I need it. You should see the look of shock on their faces when I deliver my little speech. Then I hand over my ALL will on which I have written the same thing again, over and above what the will says. The only one who gets to call me home is God.

  14. barb on February 2nd, 2014
  15. Beautiful, Barb! Thank you!
    Colleen recently posted..Light in the Darkness – Inspirational Story

  16. Colleen on February 3rd, 2014


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