This coming week our nation will mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As you may know I was elected Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that capacity I have published the following statement that I want you to read:
January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic U.S. Supreme Court rulings Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Without grounding in the Constitution, law or human rights, these decisions have made it legal for the past forty years in the United States to end the life of an unborn child. Since then fifty-five million children never had the chance to be born. The scope of this loss is staggering, yet the Court and many in our society relegate it to a matter of personal choice.
As part of the ongoing response to innocent children’s lives being taken with the protection of the law, the U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a major pastoral initiative calling for prayer and penance to promote and build a culture of life, marriage and religious liberty.
The initiative includes “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” from January 19 to 27, 2013. I invite Catholics in the United States to join me in this novena. It includes daily prayer intentions for the healing and conversion of our nation, for elected officials who support abortion, and for all people whose lives have forever been changed by an abortion. The novena is available through social media, text messaging and email, to be helpful for youth and other pilgrims traveling to pro-life events and marches and for those wishing to participate from their parishes and homes.
Our nation greatly needs our prayers and personal sacrifices. The evil of abortion inflicts unimaginable pain, but Jesus offers us healing and renewal. He came not to condemn us, but to free us from the burden of the wrongs we have done so that all might be saved. His Divine Mercy knows no limits; we need only to ask his forgiveness. If you know of anyone suffering from the effects of an abortion experience, please encourage them to seek help.
It is our hope and prayer that our defense of human life and religious freedom, our witness to the dignity of each and every human person, our compassionate service and our prayers calling on the infinite love and mercy of God will spark a renewal of love and commitment to the true good of others. Only a love that seeks to serve those most in need, whatever the personal cost to ourselves, is strong enough to overcome a culture of death and build a civilization worthy of human beings created in God’s image.
I encourage you to visit www.usccb.org/9days to receive daily prayers and reflections for the novena and learn how to promote them in your parish or organization. To see the help available after an abortion please visit http://hopeafterabortion.com and for more information on the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions please visit http://endroe.org
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The New Year is a time when many people take stock of their lives and consider various forms of “self-improvement”, such as quitting smoking or weight loss. I wonder, though, how many consider improving their spiritual lives? Fortunately, that is exactly what we are given the opportunity to do in this Year of Faith.
This week, I have asked Michael Lavigne, our Senior Associate to the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, to share some ideas with you about how we may take advantage of this special year designated by the Holy Father.
— Cardinal Seán
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The Year of Faith
by Michael Lavigne
“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei)
As we continue to celebrate the beginning of a new calendar year it is a good time to be reminded of another “year” worth celebrating: the Year of Faith. We are only a few months into this gift that has been given to us by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, which ends on November 24, 2013.
During this Year of Faith we are being invited to profess the faith with confidence, hope and joy! It is an invitation for each of us to encounter, grow and share.
This Year is an opportunity for all of us to deepen our friendship with the Person of Jesus Christ and encounter Him by participating in daily prayer, reading of Scripture and in the Sacraments, especially in Penance and the Eucharist.
Some ways we can encounter the Person of Jesus Christ include:
· Spend time with the Real Presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration and thereby grow in intimacy with Him.
· Be nourished by God’s Word through the practices of lectio divina (Sacred Reading). The five step process includes 1. Read; 2. Meditate; 3. Pray; 4. Contemplate; and 5. Act.
· Encounter and experience His mercy and healing, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
· Visit a Shrine in the Archdiocese of Boston or throughout New England with you family and/or friends.
· Reflect on the life of Mary, who is a model of faith, through praying the Rosary.
This Year is an opportunity to grow in understanding and knowledge of our beautiful Catholic faith, especially through reflecting upon the documents of the Second Vatican Council and studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Some ways we can grow in knowledge of faith include:
· View Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series. He gently and convincingly presents the Faith through the use of artwork, music, Catholic landmarks and moving narration. You can learn more about this compelling work at www.WordonFire.org.
· Pray the Nicene Creed each day. Recite the Creed as part of your prayer routine or as a family before or after a meal.
· Practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (see Mt 25). In this way we, who live out our faith in action, can stand in communion with the Triune God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
· Participate in Catholic Faith Essentials: A Course for Adults During the Year of Faith. This exciting initiative that is being facilitated through a collaborative effort of the Office of the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, the Secretariat for Faith Formation & Evangelization, and the Secretariat for Catholic Media.
During this course, which is occurring from January 2013 through February 2014, we will reflect on “Is Faith the Transforming Power in Our Lives”; “Significant Themes from Vatican Council II”; “Significant Themes from the Catechism”; “Living the Catholic Faith”; and “Learning from the Church’s Great Saints.”
You can learn more about Catholic Faith Essentials by visiting www.YearofFaithBoston.org/CatholicFaithEssentials. It is not too late to join the hundreds who are already participating in this course. In fact you can catch up by viewing the first two sessions HERE.
This Year is an opportunity to provide witness: having drawn closer to Christ we can now be witnesses of God’s love within us.
Some ways we can share and give witness to the gift of faith include:
· Read and reflect on Cardinal Seán’s Pastoral Letter: A New Pentecost: Inviting All to Follow Jesus.
· Identify a family member or friend who is close to you to consider the mystery of the Person of Jesus as calling them. Begin by praying specifically for that person’s conversion asking the Holy Spirit for guidance as to when and how you can witness to them.
· Invite a friend or family member to Mass, a retreat, a conference or host a viewing of Catholic Faith Essentials for friends and/or family. Consider beginning with a meal and have an ongoing conversation about the mystery of Jesus so as to share understanding of faith.
Through Divine Providence, this Year of Faith is occurring as the Archdiocese embarks into Disciples in Mission: A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. At the very core of this plan is the mission of the Church to evangelize – to share the Good News of the Person of Jesus Christ.
In fact this week members of the staff at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center kicked off the Stage 1 Training with a full day of learning about and reflecting on the mission to evangelize.
Imagine if all of us engage this Year of Faith with the special intention that the Holy Spirit prepares all of us to be instruments of faith, hope and love throughout the implementation of Disciples in Mission! It is not too late to do so – there is still approximately 310 days left in this blessed Year.
As we draw closer to the beginning of Lent it is an ideal time to commit or re-commit ourselves to entering into the celebration of this Year with courage, hope and joy. I invite you to visit our Archdiocesan website for the Year of Faith: www.YearofFaithBoston.org. The site offers a variety of resources, ideas and reflections for the Year of Faith.
Be assured of my prayers for you that your participation in this Year may bear tremendous fruit in your life and in the lives of all those who witness your love for Jesus Christ and His Church.