Candlelight Vigil marks half-way point of 40 Days for Life

by Michael Loretz

Despite the wet weather, more than 150 people gathered on the street outside Auckland’s AMAC abortion facility to pray and bear witness on Sunday evening (28th February). “Be my Light”, a special vigil hour for the unborn, was organised by Family Life International NZ to mark the halfway point for the annual 40 Days for Life prayer vigils being held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch throughout Lent and up to Palm Sunday.

People from different walks of life, priests, seminarians, mothers, fathers, children, people of different ethnicities and ages, gathered together for an hour on one of Auckland’s busiest streets, praying, singing and standing in moments of silence to ask God for Mercy and healing in the hope that a new culture of respect for life will grow and thrive in New Zealand.

In Wellington, a similar special vigil, “Be a Sign of Hope” was held outside Wellington Hospital in the mid-afternoon and around the country throughout the day many others, including the Carmelite Sisters in Auckland, prayed in solidarity for the success of 40 Days for Life.

Michelle Kaufman, the Communications Director of Family Life International NZ addressed the Auckland gathering saying, “This is a spiritual battle and we already know the victor, it is Christ – he won the victory on the Cross. But we need to do our part too and be for others his hands and his feet.” She encouraged the gathering to continue to support practical initiatives that offer hope to the vulnerable and help build a culture of respect for all human life from conception to natural death.

Family Life International NZ run Crisis Pregnancy Centres in Auckland and Wellington and offer women throughout the country practical help and support including pregnancy counselling, post abortion healing and recovery, and education.

The 40 Days for Life vigils in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will continue until the 20th March. Please visit www.fli.org.nz/40daysforlife to find out more and sign up.

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The value of accepting suffering

Alison Davis and Colin Harte
Alison Davis and Colin Harte

 

One of the most inspirational people I have ever met came in the form of a very fragile woman, Alison Davis.

What a grace and wonderful moment to meet her and her devoted caregiver of more than twenty years, Colin Harte.   Motivational speakers and leaders of all manner and kind can speak eloquent words and bring societal change about through their social and verbal skills.  They can take thousands and even millions of people on a journey in their life that brings a perceived hope and bring change to the world in which they live.  BUT this lady, reached to the very soul of my being.   The only other person in my life having this profound effect was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The very moment I first met Alison, I knew deep within my soul that I was in the presence of a very holy and very grace-filled woman.  Alison suffered with many illnesses in her life including Spina Bifida and being confined to a wheel chair all her life. She required a caregiver – a companion – twenty four hours, seven days a week to assist her with her personal cares.

Alison’s story is a testament to the real value of accepting suffering in our lives.  Alison was always a very joyful and thoughtful woman, full of love and compassion for all those she met. Despite being in constant pain and discomfort a lot of the time and despite not having any physical independence in her life, Alison championed the rights of the disabled and handicapped to be respected and assisted where needed.  Above all she fought for the rights of her fellow disabled community to have the right to life.  She founded the UK Disability Rights group, No less Human and travelled internationally (including New Zealand), to speak on disability rights and against voluntary euthanasia.

Alison grew up as an atheist.  She wanted to die on several occasions and almost succeeded. It was the care and determination of a true lady friend who helped her break the cycle of wanting to die. She would sit with Alison, removing all instruments within reach that she could use to harm herself.  It was this friend who persisted and who remained a faithful and true advocate for Alison’s life, that eventually gave her the hope and trust and a desire to live her life in a happy and meaningful way.

Then Alison was blessed with a new caregiver, who was destined for the priesthood.  He was to take care of Alison for just a few weeks, but continued on, staying at Alison’s home and providing her with the most loving an devoted care imaginable until Alison died in 2013.  She was 58 years old.

In the midst of intense suffering, Alison discovered the existence of God and His great love for her. She became a Catholic.  She accepted completely the Catholic Church as the repository of truth and the giver of life.  With the integrity of much experience she spoke of suffering with Christ as “the greatest privilege possible in the world.”

We had become good friends from the start, and the absolute love and joy given out from Alison to our own three special needs children surpassed any eloquent inspiring preacher or speaker I have ever heard.

From a wretched, unhappy, pain ridden young woman, who had despaired and had so much wanted to die… to a woman of hope, joy, and expectation and simplicity of heart.  Alison had a very intelligent and great mind, and spent her life writing and  speaking to advocate for the most vulnerable, in particular those in danger of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

I will always remember Alison for her amazing capacity to love – always with a gentle smile, regardless of the suffering she was enduring internally.  In her weakness she was very strong.

The dignity of the human person, abortion… and us

Life Rocks!The ongoing scandal in the United States over Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby organs has caused many to sit up and take notice to the tragedy of abortion.  Five US States have defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of this scandal.  People are now questioning whether they can really say they are “pro-choice” after seeing the reality of the abortion industry, and the harsh truth that abortion kills a human being – a child.

The videos which have been made public are powerful witnesses to the humanity and the dignity of the human person, from the very first moment of existence.   A dignity that many today wish to cast aside in the name of convenience, autonomy, choice…

The rhetoric has become old.

When people wish to seek the truth, they will find it.

I believe that people need to actually see what abortion does to an unborn child to shake us out of our complacency.   Obviously there is a time and a place, and a way to do this that shows sensitivity.

Abortion is horrific.  It is heinous.  Arms and legs are torn off, tiny fingers and toes are visible among the crushed and mangled bodies.  It is a sight that no one wants to see, or even read about, because it is something so gruesome that it cannot be forgotten.  But they are images that give us fire in our belly to speak up in the face of this grave injustice.  It is a reality that cannot be ignored.

So what does this mean for us?

It means that every individual, every family, every Church, every person of good will must seek to make a stand for what is right and true in the face of this grave injustice.  As St John Paul II exhorted us: we must never tire, we must never give up, we must never be discouraged and we must not be afraid.

We have an obligation to speak up for our pre-born brothers and sisters – the most vulnerable among us – simply because they have dignity.

We must recognize the dignity of every human person from the very first moment of existence to the very natural end.  Every life is worthwhile.  Every life is precious.

A final word of encouragement from St John Paul II:

“Life will triumph: this is a sure hope for us. Yes, life will triumph because truth, goodness, joy and true progress are on the side of life. God, who loves life and gives it generously, is on the side of life.”

Let us pray with hope and work with a great sense of urgency for the sake of our brothers and sisters!

Building a culture of life with love

Imagine a culture where every human life was respected from his or her natural conception until their natural end.  Imagine how it would be if the natural family was upheld as the essential element of a stable society and the best protector of children.  Imagine the day when every person works in unity for the common good.

Today, in the name of freedom, so many are working against life, faith and family, and the culture of life that we work for seems so difficult to attain.

Just this week NZ Doctor revealed the results of their survey on euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Out of 110 respondents, 13 doctors admitted to having helped a patient to die.

Family Planning have been very busy promoting their sex education programmes at a Physical Education conference for teachers.  Sex education (otherwise known as sexuality education) is taught under the Health and Physical Education curriculum in New Zealand schools.  Teaching young people about how to obtain pleasure is now a fundamental aspect of their programmes.  This is taught alongside the concept of consent (which outside of marriage, is consent to use one another, and is the opposite of real love).

All around the world traditional marriage and the natural family is under attack as governments continue to redefine marriage and children are denied their fundamental right to a mum and a dad.

What must our response to the chaos be?

We have to respond with love and humility.  As we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13, that means with patience and kindness and it means always seeking the truth, even if that truth seems harsh.  Truth gives us real freedom to be the people that we were created to be.

We must pray for those who work to build a culture of death.  Many are misguided.  They really do believe that it is right to promote and participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, sex education, the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients.  We must pray for their conversion.

Bernard Nathanson, who performed over 60,000 abortions and was very much involved in the push for legalised abortion in the United States, had a change of heart, and ultimately a conversion to Catholicism, because people of faith prayed for him and treated him with dignity and respect.

All things are possible for those who have faith.

We can work tirelessly on our own steam, but those efforts, while producing some results, will never provide lasting fruitful change.  The only real lasting solution is a turning of hearts and minds to God – including our own.  As each of us conforms our own will to that of God’s perfect plan, then we will experience lasting peace and a culture that embraces life as a most precious gift to be respected and cherished from its beginning, and where the natural family is recognised as the fundamental cell of society.

There is hope.  All throughout New Zealand and the world, there are people faithfully living the Gospel of Life and witnessing to the hope that is within them.  From their continued faithfulness the culture of life will be realised.

 

Father Shenan Boquet: Building a culture of life

Father Shenan Boquet, President of Human Life International, recently addressed participants of the Auckland Eucharistic Convention on Building a Culture of Life.

In his presentation, Father Boquet speaks of the need to transform the culture.  Drawing on Scripture, he explains how God has given us building blocks to do this, saying:  “The building blocks that help us understand the language we speak begins in the family.”

“‘If you love me, you keep my commands’ (John 14:15).  And where does a child learn that?  Learns it from mum and dad.  Learns it when mum and dad are living that love.  Not only just for eachother, but the love for God.  The love of God’s teaching.  The dogmas and the doctrines and all the teachings that have been revealed to us through the Church, through revelation and how God is teaching us his commands.  And are we responding to them?”

Watch Father Boquet’s presentation to learn how and why we must work to build a culture of life, beginning in the family.

Claire Culwell: My very personal story of life

Claire Culwell’s powerful story is a reminder that every human life from the moment of conception is precious and how abortion has a devastating effect on not just the child, not just the mother, but on so many people, including future generations.

Claire gave this talk at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention in April 2015.

Father Shenan Boquet: Speaking a language of life and family

Father Shenan Boquet

Over the weeks of April 9th to 24th, it was our privilege to host Father Shenan Boquet, the President of Human Life International.

While here in New Zealand, Father Boquet gave a number of talks throughout the country.  The first of these was “Speaking a Language of Life and Family” at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention, held at Sacred Heart College.

“This thirst that God has for us, is from the fountain from which we draw the language he wants us to speak in this world.  This language of life and love.  This language of transformation.  This power that comes from this genuine source outside of ourselves.”  Father Boquet