Wellington: Reflection on 40 Days for Life

Wellington 40 Days for Lifeby Clare McClean
Co-ordinator of Family Life International NZ’s John Paul II Centre for Life in Wellington and leader of 40 Days for Life in Wellington

With just four days remaining of 40 Days for Life it is time to reflect on some of our experiences at the vigil site.

Fore mostly, the footpath outside Wellington Hospital has been a place of consistent prayer, but it has also been a place of encounter with the public.

We have had some amazing opportunities to pray with, and for, the sick and to also witness to the sanctity of human life. What have been particularly exciting are the few dialogues where an initially angry person has come to understand and accept the need to stand up for our defenceless and innocent unborn brothers and sisters. “You’ve got me,” said one professional hospital staff member who later admitted after a long discussion, “You are right.”

Then there are the public who have stopped to encourage us with statements like:

“Thank you for what you are doing.”
“Keep it up.”
“Hope you are going to have another 40 days after this one.”
“Seeing you here every day has made me consider our duty as Christians to stand up for the defenceless today”
“I am an atheist but what you are doing is right, it’s a matter of logic, and I don’t understand why all Christians aren’t here with you.”
“Can I pray with you?”

We’ve also been made acutely aware of the pain in society inflicted by the culture of death.

People have wanted to come and share their heart wrenching stories with us. Amongst these encounters are someone whose sister committed suicide after two forced abortions; a grandparent who felt helpless to save a grandchild from abortion; and someone who agonises for flatmates who have been changed by abortion and are no longer able to function “normally.”

In these encounters people are able to appreciate what 40 Days for Life is about. They understand the need to stand peacefully and prayerfully keeping watch, waiting for the day when unborn children will be treasured and women will no longer be exploited in our hospital. They ‘get it’.  They know we are there to be a loving presence, support for the dying ; a hand of hope and help for the families of the unborn children and a witness to the truth.  They know that in a just society the right to life is upheld for all.

However, there are still those who wrongly perceive both us and the reality of abortion. Some of the slogans uttered by passers-by are so ironic. Ponder a moment on these two slogans, particularly in relation to the reality of the abortion procedures,

“no unwanted babies” and “no forced labour”.

Are not both slogans in reality a good description of what abortion truly is: a premature forced labour and the abandonment and rejection of children?

Why is there such a disconnect with logic and reality on our streets?

Why is it that despite our efforts to explain that 40 Days for Life’s visual presence is a prayer vigil, the media and some of the public insist we are “protestors” holding a “protest.”

Why are there rumours spread about (by people who admit they have not yet seen 40 Days for Life) that we are there arguing with people.

Why is it that the feminist blogger referred to our presence as creating an ideological clash!

After all our signs have positive and life-affirming messages eg. “Saving lives, offering hope” ; “We can help 0800 367 5433” ; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” and even the one that reads “Pray for an end to abortion” simply informs the public of our mission while inviting them to join in. Most of the time we are praying but if we are asked questions we answer them. We have been on the other end of all sorts of loud, rude and annoying retorts. Yet we come to be called the ones described as harassing, argumentative and ideological. What we are doing is being deliberately distorted and misrepresented.

We can though look to Pope Francis for some light on the matter. In Evangelii Gaudium he says “Frequently as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their (= the unborn) lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.”

We have no ideology to push; no political agenda up our sleeve. We are concerned about a life and death issue affecting the very core of our society: individuals within families. We are standing for what is good, what is true and what is beautiful – the right for everyone to be given a chance at life. The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights and in fact from the right to life all other human rights spring, including authentic women’s rights.

The difficulty for those who label us as protestors lies in the fact that the truth we speak and the goodness we pray for is at variance with the current ideology of New Zealand’s political parties and those accusing us falsely, that is, secular democracy. Having done away with absolute truth and fallen upon the way of relativism, New Zealand politics fails to recognise absolute truths like the right to life. They fail to look outside of their own wishes and thoughts to seek what is true. Truth changes in a secular democracy according to the current whim of the sitting parliament. If we vigil prayers put our trust in politics alone then we would be protesting!

However, a lie cannot last forever! The humanity of the unborn child will again one day be recognised; the dignity of women will again be upheld and abortion will no longer be classified as healthcare. In this we hope and pray during all 40 Days and beyond.

 

40 Days for Life

40 days of hopeImage

I remember during my early years at university becoming friends with an exchange student from West Germany. When she left her home country, a wall divided it from the communist country of East Germany, and people had been killed for trying to cross that wall. By the time her year in New Zealand was over, Germans could freely travel across the border between the two Germanys, and official German reunification had taken place within a year.

When she came to New Zealand, the fall of the Berlin wall was a distant hope, with few people expecting it to happen within their lifetime. It seemed beyond reasonable for the wall to fall.

But it did.

The flame of resistance within the eastern bloc countries had been lit a decade before when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland. His battle cry, “Be not afraid”, gave the people of Poland hope. A hope that spread throughout Eastern Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

That same battle cry was also for the pro-life movement which was always so close to his heart. We have the Lord himself on our side. No matter how strong the opponents of the ‘Culture of Life” might be, they cannot endure. No matter how strong they seem, or how much they influence government policy, they are running on borrowed time. In fact, the war against them has already been won. It was won on the cross.

And victories are happening.

In the US, there have been a record number of pro-life laws being passed1,2, and it’s bringing abortion rates down. Spain is considering ending abortion on demard3.

So how might an end of abortion look? Especially here in New Zealand?

We have seen the numbers and rates of abortions drop here and New Zealand and in the US as well. And the greatest declines in abortion rates are in the youngest age groups. We can expect this to continue.

There are already shortages of staff willing to participate in abortion4. And this has affected abortion services5. The 40 days for life program includes prayer for medical staff involved in abortion, and has seen 88 workers leave abortion providers. This is something that could easily happen in New Zealand, and we know there are abortion staff in New Zealand who have doubts about their jobs6. They need our prayer.

I have noticed a change in public perception of the pro-life movement. We are now seen as the ones who are helping women. The opposition is still there, and they can still dominate the political process and the media. But the general public are more open to the pro-life message than ever before. I’m constantly surprised by the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about our work helping expectant mums. As in Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, hope is rising. And I can feel the change.

There is still more work to do. More prayer and pro-life work is needed. But slowly the public is seeing that abortion isn’t the solution that they thought it was. One day they will see that it isn’t a solution at all.

We need to hope. We need to pray. And we need to “Be not afraid”.

 

 

Get involved: 40 days for life

 

1.            Johnson, J. Pro-life laws and clinic closures lowered abortion rate: CDC | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2013). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-laws-and-clinic-closures-lowered-abortion-rate-cdc>

2.            Johnson, J. ‘Record number’ of pro-abortion laws being introduced dwarfed by pro-life gains, legal expert says | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2014). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/record-number-of-pro-abortion-laws-being-introduced-dwarfed-by-pro-life-gai>

3.            Metaxas, E. Restricting abortion, Spanish style | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/restricting-abortion-spanish-style>

4.            Board forced to bring outsiders to staff abortion facility -. CathNews N. Z. (2012). at <http://cathnews.co.nz/2012/10/16/board-forced-to-bring-outsiders-to-staff-invercargill-abortion-facility/>

5.            Hill, M. Abortion clinic opens in secrecy to protect staff. Stuff.co.nz (2012). at <http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7813405/Abortion-clinic-opens-in-secrecy-to-protect-staff>

6.            Whelan, M. A day at the clinic. The Wireless at <http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/free/a-day-at-the-clinic>

Being a light in this culture of death

luke 8 v16Recently I have been reflecting on the importance of speaking up for what we know to be right, despite knowing that the consequences may very well be: ridicule, scorn and humiliation.

But for Christians, we know that in it’s darkness, in it’s fascination with death, it is light our world needs. That light of course, is the light of Christ. For those of us who profess to be Christian, we are called to bring that light into the darkness. We cannot hide our light under a bushel.

That doesn’t mean that we “bible bash” as the old saying goes, but we must bring hope to those whom we meet. We must not be afraid to speak with great compassion and love when evil abounds around us.

If I had been around in the time of Nazi Germany, when the Jews, the disabled, the gypsies, the Christians and the homosexuals were being taken away to be killed in the death camps, I would hope that I would have had the courage to speak up or to be one of those who hid their fellow human beings from the Gestapo. I would hope that I would have had courage to do what was right, what was just.

Today we have our own death camps. They are the abortion clinics. The people who work in them are enslaved by lies and deception, the men and women who walk into them, thinking there is no other option to their situation are deprived of hope. The babies that are carried into these death camps, in what should be the safety of their mother’s wombs, do not, in most cases, leave alive.

The devil rejoices at the abortion clinics. He rejoices because he has power over them. He resides there. He sucks the life out of all those who enter the doors. He rejoices because there he has the power to turn souls from Christ. There he has power to destroy God’s creation, made in His image and likeness.

When we, as Christ’s body, stand outside these death camps and publicly witness to God’s love, we bring hope to those inside. When we stand there asking for God’s forgiveness, for his intervention, many blessings abound.

We are called to be the light in the darkness. We are called to bring Christ to the world. We are called to do this no matter how hard it is, how busy we are or how fearful we may be.

Imagine Jesus hanging on the cross. He is in an agony that defies belief. There are two people at the foot of that cross – Mary and John. How alone he must have felt. When we feel embarrassed, or alone, or afraid of what is to come, remember that scene. What we have to suffer for what is right, what is just, is only a slither of that which Christ suffered for each and every single one of us.

So, on this eve of the 40 Days for Life vigil, I urge you to not be afraid and come to the death camps if you can. Come pray, come be a sign of hope, come and be a light in this world of darkness.

A Pro-life view of ‘Tolerance’

“Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Something about ‘tolerance’ has always made me uncomfortable. I’ve long been aware that the loudest preachers of tolerance are the ones who are the most intolerant of my own beliefs. I’m well aware of that, and the contradiction of it, but somehow it never really was the reason.

And those who preach tolerance are full of conviction. It’s their followers who they expect to abandon their convictions, or conform to what is politically correct. We all know plenty of them. I’ve also been aware of this for a long time, but it was never the whole source of what was bothering me about ‘tolerance’.

There was always something else that I could never put my finger on.

Then I was blessed enough to hear Fr Jim Brand from Vatican radio talking about ‘tolerance’, and my eyes were opened. “What might we tolerate?” he asked, “A fly buzzing around…”

Essentially he was reminding us all that when we only ‘tolerate’ something bad or irritating. When we declare our tolerance of a person, it’s actually a put down. And that’s a problem for a Christian. The worth of each and every person comes from them being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether it’s a ‘reproductive rights’ protestor, an expectant mum at a pregnancy centre, or her preborn child. Another human being is never a ‘thing’ to be ‘tolerated’, but a chance for us to practice our Christian vocation of love.

So tolerance is far below the standard required of a Christian. If an expectant Mum came into our centre, and I merely tolerated her because of her beliefs about abortion, then I have failed her, myself and our Lord.

Her, because she will pick up the difference between a ‘tolerant’ attitude and a true Christian attitude of unconditional love. It’s the reason that faith based crisis pregnancy centres have been so effective. I’ve failed myself because I’ve failed to live up to my Christian vocation, and it doing so, I’ve failed our Lord too.

But there is the call to be intolerant. Yes, Christians are called to be intolerant. Our Lord himself showed a great deal of intolerance towards the practice of ‘money changing’ in the temple.

While we are not to be intolerant of people, there is plenty we are called to be intolerant too: Abortion, contraception, poverty, human trafficking, violence and anything that robs people of their God given dignity.

It’s our mission and vocation to bring the Gospel of Life, a world where everyone experiences God given grace and dignity, from conception to natural death. And it’s our job to be intolerant to a culture of death that robs people of their God given dignity, and then so often, their lives too.

And in this, may we never be that man without a conviction!

“All men are equal as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King.” G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Prayer for mothers to say “yes” to life

As today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the pro-life movement throughout the world, it seemed appropriate to publish this prayer for all mothers who are afraid to say “yes” to life.  Mary, of course, is a great model to all those who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant.  She, an unwed girl, completely trusted in God that all would be well.  And because of her “yes”, we are blessed with LIFE.  So today, let us pray for all those women and girls who are about to, or have just found they are unexpectedly pregnant, that they too may have the grace to say “yes” to life.

You can find out all about Our Lady of Guadalupe here.

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Memorial of Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul IIToday marks the very first Memorial of Blessed John Paul II.  A day of great Grace for the Church and for the pro-life movement.  During his priesthood and pontificate, Blessed John Paul II taught us so much about respect for all human life from conception to natural death.  He taught us about the importance of traditional family, of chastity, of the sacredness of marriage.  He illuminated the Gospels decade after decade, encouraging youth to embrace and live fully the faith.  He showed us not to be afraid of suffering, but to embrace it.  We are truely privileged to be able to still call on the intercession of this incredible man of faith.

At Family Life International NZ, in our John Paul II Centres for Life, we pray the following prayer every day.  It appears at the end of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).  What a prayer for our times when life, faith and family is being attacked at an unprecedented rate.

John Paul II’s Prayer for Life

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy. Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.  Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.  Amen.

Respect Life Month – Day Twelve

married couple“Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church.”  Pope Benedict XVI

  • Learn about Natural Fertility Regulation.  Married couples learn how to use NFR to either achieve or postpone pregnancy.  Priests and singles promote it to engaged and married couples.  Family Life International NZ teaches Natural Fertility Regulation (Billings Ovulation Method).  You can find out more here.

Humanae Vitae Novena

Eternal Father, we, Your unworthy servants approach You.  We ask You to protect the lives of the Holy Innocents of this day and age, the preborn.  Please bless them and keep them from the moment of conception to natural death.  We ask the guardian angels of the preborn to watch over and protect these children.  Enkindle the flame of maternal and paternal love in current and future parents, so they may be open to life and accept children lovingly and willingly according to Your Will.  Enlighten every mind to the horror of abortion and the evil of artificial contraception, and give us the courage and strength to fight for the Culture of Life with truth and love.

We humbly ask You in the Holy Name of Jesus this favor and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her spouse St. Joseph, St, Michael the Archangel, and Your good and faithful servants, Blessed John Paul II the Great and Pope Paul VI, please hear and answer our prayers.  For You are our God, the God of salvation and compassion,
and we glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Say one Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, 1 Guardian Angel Prayer, and 1 Glory Be

  • Holy Jesus, Infant of Prague – HEAR OUR PRAYER
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary – PRAY FOR US
  • St. Joseph – PRAY FOR US
  • St. Michael the Archangel – PRAY FOR US
  • Blessed Pope John Paul II the Great – PRAY FOR US
  • Pope Paul VI – PRAY FOR US

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours. Amen.