Practices and Prayers for a Pro-life Lent
“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” Although the scripture readings this week will go on to speak about original sin, personal sin, and the grace of Redemption, we begin with this important line about God as the author of life. On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads that “dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.” The dust exists only because of God, and, being formed into a human person, it has life only because of God. Every Lent, therefore, is a pro-life event. We turn from sin and towards God, who is Life itself!
In our age, the dignity of every human person from conception until natural death is under attack in what St. Pope John Paul II called a “veritable ‘culture of death’” [Evangelium Vitae/The Gospel of Life, #12]. Human life is valued according to a person’s status or usefulness to society, not according to their inherent dignity as beloved sons and daughters of God, who breathed into them the gift of life from the very heart of the Trinity. Perhaps, then, this Lent we might consider bringing this pro-life aspect of the season to the forefront. We could imbue our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with a very intentional pro-life message and meaning. Here are ten suggestions:
1-Pray for women in crisis situations or who have unwanted pregnancies, that they will recognize the wonderful position they are in as mothers of new and unique human lives, cooperators with God the Mother who brings all life into the world (see last week’s reading from Isaiah where God is described as a Mother never abandoning her child).
2-Help them to experience their situation as wonderful by refraining from all judgment and stigma, and offering only love and support no matter what the circumstances.
3-Donate to charities that provide direct assistance to women in difficult situations, taking care of the medical, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of pregnant women and their families.
4-If you are a man and you get a woman pregnant, stand by her. Be responsible and don’t leave her on her own. Support her. For all of us, let’s encourage a culture of men who are responsible and unselfish.
5-Don’t judge women who have had an abortion. God’s mercy and understanding are perfect. Pope Francis emphasized this during the Year of Mercy by extending the sacramental power to forgive abortions to all priests, a power which he has extended indefinitely. Instead of judging, support ministries like Project Rachel that assist women who have chosen abortion and regret it.
6-Continue to support and defend the dignity of every life after birth, whether wealthy or on welfare; whether gay or straight; whether black or white, Latino or Asian or Middle Eastern; whether long-time resident or recent immigrant; whether fully functional or having special needs; whether able to work or requiring assistance; whether Catholic or Muslim or Jew or atheist; whether old and sick or young and healthy. Pro-life means ALL life.
7-Be a voice and a vote for life by opposing the death penalty, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Be present to those who are sick and dying, and who may feel useless and a burden. Show them there is no such thing. They matter to the end. They matter eternally.
8-Take steps to protect the dignity of every person, including supporting workers and unions; visiting prisoners and agitating for prison reform so that we lock up only those we truly need behind bars to protect society, and never imposing inhumane punishments such as solitary confinement; caring for people in other countries who are enduring the scourge of war and violence, poverty, famine, and natural disasters.
9-Teach children about the God-given dignity of every person, be involved in their lives and teach them good moral values, and support (and provide for your own children) age-appropriate sex education based on good science, medicine, and morals.
10-Continue to take care of people’s needs directly (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give medical care to the sick, shelter the homeless, welcome the immigrant and the refugee, etc.) and also indirectly (protect the natural environment as a gift from the God of Life for the sustenance of life, work against racism and sexism, campaign and vote for candidates who reflect these pro-life values).
Lent should be a time of conversion. Our culture needs to be converted desperately, and each of us needs conversion as well. We move the culture best when we turn away from sin in our own lives and turn to Christ more perfectly. Let’s see if we can do better. Then, by Easter, by the grace of God working in us and with us, we may become more credible witnesses to the Gospel of Life.