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opinion/commentary View Comments

40 Days for Life

Source: St. Anthony Messenger
Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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The Church celebrates 40 days of Christmas, ending with the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. This feast recalls the visit of Mary and Joseph to the Temple to give thanks for Jesus’ birth (see Luke 2:22-38).

This January, the 38th annual March for Life will occur in Washington, D.C., seeking legal protection for human life from conception to natural death.

The U.S. bishops have designated January 22, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, as a day of penance for “violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”

According to a May 2009 Gallup poll, 51 percent of people in the United States describedthemselves as “prolife” regarding abortion, as compared to 42 percent who called themselves “pro-choice.” Gallup’s Values and Beliefs poll has been conducted annually since 1995. In that year, 56 percent of respondents self-identified as “pro-choice” and 33 percent described themselves as “pro-life.”

A May 2010 poll by the Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey of 1,001 U.S. adults yielded these results: abortion should be legal only in certain circumstances (44%), available no matter what the reason (37%), illegal in all circumstances (15%), and unsure or refused to answer (5%).

There is general support for some restrictions on abortions but no agreement currently on specifics about how to restrict them.

In November 2003, the U.S. Congress approved and President George W. Bush signed a federal ban on partial-birth abortions when a substantial portion of a living child is delivered outside the mother’s body. In April 2007 this ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart.

Several states have passed parental notification laws that have withstood court challenges.

The first local 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer at abortion clinics was conducted in the fall of 2004 at Bryan/College Station, Texas. The September 22-October 31, 2010, campaign of prayer, fasting, vigil and outreach was held at 238 locations in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Northern Ireland and Denmark. Another campaign is scheduled for March 9 (Ash Wednesday) to April 17, 2011.

Recalling the birth of Jesus always moves us. When he was presented in the Temple 40 days later, Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus and his great mission.

Unborn children are the most vulnerable people in the world. Respecting their right to life prepares us to respect the right to life of sick people, the aged, those with developmental disabilities and anyone else who can easily be considered marginal in a results-oriented society, one in danger of forgetting that its Declaration of Independence speaks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as “inalienable rights.” They are “inalienable” because they come from God, not from an agreement among society’s members.

Life is a spectrum of stages. We cannot deny respect for unborn life without jeopardizing respect for all of life. And that touches each of us—born or unborn.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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