From the Pastor ... Lent begins this week
This Wednesday begins the penitential season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, all the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday, are days of abstinence from meat. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of fasting. (The age requirements are indicated in another part of this bulletin.) Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but people are encouraged to come to Mass on that day. What about the other days of Lent? Everyone is encouraged to practice various forms of penance (e.g., different types of fasting), prayer, and the giving of alms (i.e., charity). The bishops of the U.S., in their 1966 document, state: "we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting. In the light of grave human needs which weigh on the Christian conscience in all seasons, we urge, particularly during lent, generosity to local, national, and world programs of sharing of all things needed to translate our duty to penance into a means of implementing the right of the poor to their part in our abundance. We also recommend spiritual studies, beginning with the Scriptures as well as the traditional Lenten devotions (sermons, Stations of the Cross, and the rosary), and all the self denial summed up in the Christian concept of "mortification."
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Transcript of Father's talk
.. here today to speak to you about 40 Days for Life, a Pro-Life ministry.
I'd like to begin with a little story about a father who was putting his son to bed one day, and his son didn't want to go to bed. But he was obedient. He went up and got in bed.
Five minutes later the father hears
"Bring me a drink of water."
He said "I just gave you a drink of water befor I put you down."
He said, "Now just settle down."
Ten minutes later he hears "Daddy!"
"Bring me a drink of water."
"I'm not bringing you a drink of water and if you don't settle down I am coming up there and giving you a spanking."
Fifteen minutes "Daddy!, Daddy!"
"When you come up to give me a spanking will you bring me a drink of water?"
I like that story.
I don't know if that son was so wise, but he was persistent.
The story of 40 Days for Life is a story of persistent prayer to end abortion.
And we are here today to invite you to join us in this campaign for 40 days, to pray for an end to abortion.
It all begain, for 40 Days for Life, in a little town in Texas, in the year of 2004.
Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the United States, announced they were going to build an abortion facitity in College Station Texas.
Pro-Life people were very upset. They did not know what to do about it. So they said, well, lets just pray and ask God. Maybe He will tell us. They did that. At the end of that time one of them said "Did you notice how often the number 40 comes up in scriptures? The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years, Jesus fasted for 40 days. And many other places the number 40 comes up." He said, "Maybe God is telling us just to take 40 days of prayer and fasting - peaceful prayer, and keep a vigil in front of that abortion facility, and invite other people to join us."
That is what they decided.
There was another person involved in the begining.
Her name is Abbey.
When she was in college she was distressed at the number of girls who became unexpectedly pregnant. She wanted to help them.
Planned Parenthood came on the campus looking for volunteers.
They said if you want to help these women you should join Planned Parenthood, which she did.
And when she graduated they hired her.
She was a very good administrator.
As a matter of fact within another year she was elected the Planned Parenthood employee of the year for the whole United States.
She was put in charge of this abortion facility, the new facility in Texas.
Now Abbey had never seen an abortion before. She was the administrator.
She worked out front.
But one day a doctor came.
I am going to read a line or two from this book I am holding.
It is called "Unplanned". Abbey wrote this.
There are copies up on this table in front, along with some other very interesting things you might like to see.
Someone gave me this book a few years ago. I read straight through it.
It is an easy read but very important; Very informative.
Anyway, Abbey wrote this:
She said 'One day a doctor came and he said 'I am going to perform an Ultrasound-guided abortion on this patient. I need someone to hold the Ultrasound probe.'
And they did not have anyone. So they said 'Abbey, you have to come back and help us.' And she didn't want to. But she went.
She wrote this: "I could not have immagined how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life.
I took the probe and held it over the woman until the image was complete.
I could see the entire perfect profile of a twelve week old baby.
And I became very distressed, because I knew what was going to happen.
The doctor's instrument entered the woman and the baby moved away from it.
And then the baby was gone.
Abbey wrote: That was a human baby fighting for life. A battle that was lost in the blink of an eye.
What I had told people for years, what I had believed and taught and defended, is a lie.
The doctor said "Abbey, are you okay" and I said yes.
But I wasn't. I had believed a lie. I had blindly promoted the company line.
And this thought came from deep within me: Never again. Never again.
Abbey quit her job and went out and joined the people praying out in front of the abortion facility.
That made headlines across the United States.
"Planned Parent Employee of the Year Prays to End Abortion".
So Planned Parenthood sued Abbey. But she won the case.
She said: "all I did is tell the truth". And that is how it began.
Other towns, all of them, said: "How did you do that?"
And they explained 40 days, prayer and fasting, peacefully. And other towns began to do it.
And then in the year 2008, just ten years ago, they had their first national campaign. It was in 89 cities in the United States.
One of those cities was Dayton, Ohio.
And a lady from our parish was there.
Her name is Mary. She is here this morning. She will be at that table after Mass. I hope that you will stop to see her.
In any case, she came back to Cleveland and she said "we have to do that here". But she needed help.
So she went down to the Pro-Life office of the Diocese and asked for their help.
They said 'We never heard of 40 Days for Life, and who are you?
We can't promote something we know nothing about.
Is there any priest in our diocese associated with this?'
And that is when Mary came to me.
She said "Father Dave, will you be the spiritual advisor for 40 Days for Life?
You don't have to do anything."
That was a lie.
I could never go ask people to go out and pray on the sidewalk if I did not go myself.
I wasn't comfortable with that. I am more comfortable here in the church. Out on the sidewalk not so much.
Anyway, she took me out to Painsville and we prayed on the sidewalk at a place called Family Planning.
Then she took me over on the west side and we prayed on the sidewalk there.
And then she took me to Shaker Boulevard, a place called Preterm,
the largest provider of abortions in the state of Ohio, and we prayed there.
Two things happened to me. The first was - it changed my life.
The second was - I became very sympathetic to women who have abortions.
I saw them coming there. They weren't happy to be there. Very distraught very often, thinking they had no other choice.
Many if not most of them being forced to be there by their boy friends or their spouses, even by their parents,
and they thought they had no other choice.
We would like them to know that they have other good choices.
And our Diocese provides good help for people during times of unexpected pregnancy.
Mary told me last year she was out there .. and there was a woman there crying.
She said "I have already have three children, I have no money, and I have no one to help me".
And Mary said "I'll help you".
She put her in her car and took her to a very fine pregnancy center where they helped her through the nine months of pregnancy.
And they helped her afterwards.
We have helped people through the pregnancy, and afterwards; Very fine help. We would like them to know it.
But, of course, many have the abortion. Since Roe vs. Wade there have been sixty million abortions in the United States of America.
That is very hard to get your head around that - Sixty million.
And, so all of our lives have been touched by abortion. You may have had an abortion.
You may have helped someone to have an abortion. You may have tried to stop someone from having an abortion.
It touches all of our lives. But we don't talk about it. But we have to talk about it.
It is the greatest injustice in the world, I believe. Deprivation of life for all those children.
And someone said to me, "Father you always talk about the women who have abortions. What about the men who get them pregnant?"
We have to reach those men. That's harder.
We have to tell young men that they don't prove their masculinity by their sexual prowess.
We have to teach young men to respect women as persons - deserving of respect, not just objects for their sexual pleasure.
And we have to teach women not to present themselves as objects for sexual pleasure.
But our whole entertainment industry in Hollywood tries to get women to present themselves that way.
Our Holy Father wrote this:
"Chastity is a very manly virtue.
There is perhaps no greater manefestation of a man's virility than of being in command and control of his passions, rather than yielding to them."
We have to teach men to practice self-control, not birth control. We have to teach men and women good morality.
And we haven't been doing it. Not as well as we should.
If there is no morality - anything goes. And isn't that what we have seen happen?
So our enemy is not women who have abortions. Our diocese has wonderful help, not just for women before they have it, they have wonderful help for women who have had abortions.
To help them heal for the sadness in their life. But sometimes they stay away from church.
We want them to know - our church is about forgiveness. Our church is about healing. Our church is about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We want them to get help. They are not the enemy.
Even the people who provide the abortions are not the enemy. We want them converted the way Abbey was converted.
Who is the enemy? The enemy is the devil. I say that advisedly. The devil wants to destroy our church.
If you wanted to destroy the church or even our whole society how would you do it?
I put it to you that the best way to do it is to destroy marriage and family life. Why?
That's God's plan for our salvation.
The scriptures today are very ...
Jesus said "From the begining God made them male and female".
A man and a woman - very attracted to each other, wanting to give themselves to each other.
That's unselfish love, giving love, like Jesus here [pointing to the cross].
That's how God wants us that we love Him back. And then He takes us to heaven.
And He choose marriage as a way to introduce men and women to the kind of love that He gives. And then He will take them to Heaven.
And He will bless them with children. And the children will learn this love from their parrents.
The way I learned about love was from my parents. The kind of love that God talks about - giving, self-sacrificing.
Who made the sacrifices for me, or for you?
I say, and I think you would say, I learned it from my mom and dad.
They sacrificed everything for us kids.
And I learned what that was about and I saw what sacrifices they made.
So I can assure you, I am telling you - God wants us to love him.
That is God's plan.
If I can destroy marriage and married life I can destroy the church.
And the devil has done a pretty good job of it.
What we have seen, in 1960 they invented the contraceptive pill, and the people who made it said
'This is the answer to all the troubles of marriage and married life. It will help marriage because husbands and wives won't have to worry about having too many children. And so their marriages will be better.
And if more children aren't conceived there won't be as many abortions. And that is a good thing.'
Pope Paul the sixth, who was the pope at that time, he will be canonized a saint this month, he wrote an encyclical called Humane Vite, restating the church's teaching on contraception that had been there for 2000 years.
But a lot of people thought the church would change. The reason they thought that was all Protestant churches and Catholic churches, all Christian churches, taught that contraception was a sin until 1920.
Then one of the Protestant churches changed their mind. And one after the other until all of them changed their mind, except the Catholic church, and the Orthodox.
And so, many people thought the Catholic Church would change their mind.
Pope Paul said I can't do that. This is the way God made it.
But a lot of priests didn't want to hear it. Even bishops didn't want to hear it. They didn't talk about it.
Many lay people were confused. They thought 'I am not sure, maybe this is alright'.
And that was the beginning, a certain part of the beginning, of the whole sexual revolution.
It affected everybody: married people, single people, heterosexual, homosexual.
We don't do our homosexual brothers and sisters any favor by telling them that their relationship is the same as marriage. It's not.
Not because I say so, because God says so. He made marriage. It's right in the scriptures today.
But as I say, it affected everybody. Once you separate marital love-making from having children, then a young person could say, as many have said, 'well, since we are not going to have a baby we could have sex and we don't have to be married.
Because we don't need a home for them we'll just move in and live together.
And, it's touched all of our lives. And I think some of them think it's okay.
- 'We love each other.'
They are not making a permanent commitment. They are not doing it so that they'll have children. There are all forms of birth control to help take care of that.
And if, by chance, they get pregnant 'Well, we can get an abortion. Because it is legal it must be okay.'
And abortion is now just one more form of birth control.
It affected everybody. As I said, it affected homosexuals too.
There are people that believe that sex outside of marriage is okay - which contradicts the Ten Commandments.
But it infected our society. It even got into our. with some priests, into some seminaries, even with bishops.
That's why you are reading the headlines with the scandals you are reading about today.
You who are married are living out the most important vocation that our world needs today.
People who are committed to and faithful to the commitment they made in marriage. It's God's plan.
No one gives you much credit for it. But you are doing the work of the Lord.
You parents and grandparents are setting the example that our church needs today.
People used to talk about a priest shortage. They still do.
We have a marriage shortage. Lots of married people are not getting married. They are not having babies.
That is going to provide an extraordinary crisis in our world. We need people who will set the example.
And at a time when there is scandal in the church the temptation is to back away from our church.
One of the bishops wrote this, I thought it was right to the mark.
"During times of corruption and sin in the hierarchy and the clergy God raises up holy lay people and families
to call again the church back to holiness. We need the laity to help lead the way."
You are doing the work of the Lord. And it's extraordinarily important. And so, we are here to ask you to help.
Many people are hurt. There are many victims of the sexual revolution. And we have to pray for them.
But there are no greater victims, I thought, than unborn children.
They are deprived of life, before they have a chance to live it: a great, grave injustice.
So, helping get rid of abortion is working this in the right direction.
We have a campaign manager. His name is John. He is here today. He will be over there after Mass.
He is the one who told me that Shaker Boulevard has the biggest number of abortions provided in the state: 5,000 in one year.
I met a man near there. And he said, "Father I did not know that place was there. I did not know that was going on."
It reminded me a little bit of when the American troops liberated the death camps in Germany and in Poland: Auschwitz, Buchenwald.
And when they got there the people said: "We did not know that was going on".
So the American troops took the people and made them walk through the death camps to see the heaped up bodies: six million in that holocaust.
Well there have been 60 million babies lost. But we can't show you the pictures of the heaped up bodies. They won't let us.
So, John would like your email address. He has all kinds of information to send you about this:
how to get involved, where and when, and all the rest because we don't have time now to do that.
But there are three things we would really ask everyone here to do.
One: You will be given a prayer card when you leave today.
We'd ask you to pray this, starting today, until November the 4th. That is the end of the 40 days.
We started last week. And pray this prayer every day. That is why I say "persistent prayer" drives this.
The other thing is: We'd ask you to fast for one day. That's not easy.
But Jesus said some devils are only thrown out by prayer and fasting.
The third thing we'd ask you to do is to spend one hour with us on the sidewalk.
Now, some say "I couldn't do that. I don't know where those places are. I'd be afraid."
That's the way I felt. It will affect your life in a very good way. One man in a parish said:
"I have a van. I will be in the parking lot. Meet me there. I will drive and we'll pray the Rosary and I will bring you back."
That has happened throughout the Diocese, and hopefully it happens here.
The words of Jesus in the Gospel today are just absolutely stirring words, when they told him about bringing children.
The disciples rebuked them for bringing the children. Jesus saw this and became indignant said "Let the children come to me". "Do not prevent them."
These are God's children. Do not prevent them.
My brothers and sisters I am very grateful for the time you have given me.
I would like to close with a brief reflection, because many people ask the question "Well when does life begin?"
and, "Is that really a person the woman is carrying in the womb?"
Today, if it weren't a Sunday would be the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
I would like you to think of Mary. When she was conceived in the womb of her mother Saint Ann our church teaches officially that Mary was free from original sin from the first moment of conception.
When does life begin? The first moment of conception.
And when Mary was greeted by the angel Gabriel and told that God wanted her to be the mother of his son, and Mary said yes, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity became present in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Is that a person? The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
And when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth said "The moment your greeting sounded in my ear the baby in my womb leapt for joy."
We hope that every baby conceived, like Cameron over there, who is going to be baptized today, will leap for joy because the mother will let the baby be born,
and bother the parents a few years later, by crying out "Daddy" in the middle of the night. And then be brought here to church to get baptized, and then cry out Abba, Father.
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