Praying for the Living and the Dead
So we are little over a month in this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, inaugurated by our Holy Father on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception last month. It will run until the feast of Christ the King later this year and we are being encouraged to gaze on the merciful face of the Father, to let our hearts be transformed by his mercy and in turn share His mercy with others in very practical ways. We are called to, "be merciful like the father". In his letter to young people for the upcoming World Youth Day in Poland, the Holy Father suggests that young people take a different spiritual and corporal work of mercy each month leading up to this celebration and reflect on it, pray with it and then respond practically to that work. That's the context for this blog, I want to look at some of the works through the pro life lens over the coming months. To explore a particular work of mercy, to see how it links to the pro life movement and to encourage you to have a go at living it out in very practical ways. I must confess now, I'm no prolife expert nor am I clued up on the works of mercy so this blog will be as much for my personal journey as it is for yours and I hope we can learn, explore, be challenged and encourage together over the next few months. So let's begin:
Praying for the living and dead:
This particular work of mercy falls under the category of spiritual works of mercy; these are compassionate acts which seek to help others emotionally and spiritually.
Very simply put, we are called to pray for ourselves and for others, both living and dead. Scripture tells us that we need to pray continually, to be devoted to prayer and to have a confidence in approaching The Lord, trusting that He knows our needs before we even ask for them. There are also numerous occasions throughout the Bible where the power of corporate prayer has been made manifest for example the sparing of Ninevah after 40 days of collective prayer and repentance....and in these our days, we see that when united in prayer and purpose, God still acts with power and majesty. So what does this work have to do with the ProLife movement?
Making it Pro-Life:
This act is very obviously linked to the prolife movement. Nothing is more powerful than prayer if we want to see an end to abortion- only The Lord can change hearts and minds in this battle. It's also an essential part of reaching out to those most in need. In a recent catechesis on the works of Mercy, Pope Francis explains how, "Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are abandoned and dying alone". He encourages us to look at the many Christians who have done and still do "have no fear of holding the hand of those who are leaving this world". I will look at this in a more practical sense when I cover burying the dead and the issues surrounding euthanasia in another blog. Looking at abortion though, the Pope's exhortation speaks to 4 different aspects of this issue and our role:
1) The complete abandonment of the unborn child when the decision to abort is made, a clear disregard for their life and the extreme loneliness that must be experienced by the child in that moment. We cannot physically be in the abortion clinic to accompany that child as they leave this world but prayer unites us in a deeper way than our physical presence ever could. In that moment, we accompany that child with our prayers, we let them know they are loved and valued. If they are not fortunate enough to make it out of the clinic alive, your prayer might be the only act of mercy and compassion they experience this side of eternity. And it will be remembered for all eternity...
2) The complete abandonment of a mother who feels that the choice to abort really is the only option available to her. And for those mothers who freely choose to abort, more often than not when faced with the consequences of their abortion later on, the abortion industry has abandoned them and offers no form of emotional support or accompaniment on this part of their journey. We are called to pray for these mothers, and for fathers and families affected by abortion in numerous ways.
And for those women who choose life in very difficult circumstances, our prayer is needed to support these women on their journey.
3) On the subject of abandonment we should also be mindful to pray for our society- who through the Abortion Act continues to recklessly abandon the fullness and beauty of the future promised to it through the gift of the unborn.
4) And to those involved in the ProLife movement, this kind of merciful accompaniment both spiritual and practical, requires a fearlessness and courage on our part! We must pray to be courageous and compassionate in our prayerful outreach.
Living it out:
There are many practical ways we can pray for the unborn, for those at risk of being aborted, for aborted children, for their parents, and all those involved in the abortion industry including healthcare professionals, clinic workers, those businesses who fund the industry, the media, the government and our legislators. These ideas are by no means exhaustive but they could be a starting point for you:
1) There are lots of vigils outside clinics across the country you can get involved in. It's simple, go along, pray, save lives. If you haven't been before then you can normally contact the organiser who will buddy you up with someone who has experience. It's about compassion not confrontation.
2) Get involved in a local 40 days for life campaign. The next round of campaigns start on Ash Wednesday and you will be united with people around the world praying to end abortion. Here in Birmingham we have witnessed no end of lives saved, and at the start of one campaign a media sting into illegal gender selective abortions happening at our local clinic. You will be surprised by what you witness during this campaign, the miracles and stories strengthen faith and only increase the fervour of your prayers as you see them answered before your eyes.
3) Commit to praying for the unborn in your own daily prayer life. There are lots of good resources out there to help you with this if you are unsure where to start. It could be something simple as remembering the unborn by praying a daily Hail Mary for that intention. Or you could make use of some of the great prayer resources available through Priests for Life, Good Counsel Network, the Rachel Rosary etc.
4) Organise a Holy Hour in your parish for the unborn child and encourage people to join you. Again a number of resources are available on the internet, which are easily adapted to your setting and take the stress out of organising an event. Don't forget you will need your priest or deacon's support in this.
5) Fasting and making little sacrifices is another powerful way to pray for the unborn and an end to abortion. Jesus said some battles can only be won with prayer and fasting. Maybe give up something like an hour of TV, a cup of coffee a day....or doing something bigger like a bread and water fast on a Friday. Fast according to your health and well being and know that every sacrifice, no matter how small, is precious to God and invaluable when it comes to ending abortion and saving theunborn.
6) Have Mass said for the unborn, for the children killed through abortion, for the women deciding whether to keep a pregnancy and for the women who are now living with the consequences of her abortion. The Mass is the most powerful prayer we can offer here on earth and it's a really easy way to pray for the living and dead, and raise awareness of ProLife issues in our parishes through the Mass intentions often published in the bulletin.
Do leave your thoughts and suggestions in the com box and let's get the ProLife conversation going...