THROUGHOUT THESE FORTY DAYS, O LORD
The Diocese and other sponsoring Churches have just begun the now annual “Forty Days for Life” effort which spans some of September and all of October which in our Church has traditionally been RESPECT LIFE MONTH. Father Bob Morris, our Vicar General and I have been gathering for prayer vigils within the legal distance of abortion offices throughout the diocese. Happily we are joined by ministers of other faiths who are either themselves pro-life or their Churches are. We pray, sing and hope during these vigils for an end to abortion-on-request as currently practiced in our country. Throughout these days at least two people will stand vigil on the sidewalks outside of the abortion parlors, praying that women who enter will change their mind. They know for certain that during last year’s forty days, at least four women did and their babies are now alive. It is impressive to me that every hour is covered at the Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa abortion sites from eight in the morning until five at night, Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. This principle of the exercise of free speech is peaceful and non-confrontational but highly symbolic. We are slowing changing public opinion on abortion-on-request in our country and courageous and dedicated people standing vigil aid in this educational effort.
While the 40 Days observance focuses on abortion, RESPECT LIFE MONTH from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concentrates on many other life issues as well. These span the gamut from abortion and euthanasia to access to health care, immigration, affordable housing and care for the elderly and, of course, to the one life issue that only Popes and Bishops seem prone to talk about, capital punishment.
It is not by accident that Respect Life month comes in October because this month for generations has been the month of the Holy Rosary and second only to May, the month of the Blessed Mother. But once every two years it is also the month just prior to national elections. No political party that I am aware of is truly pro-life according to the teachings of the catechism, Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae“ or the materials annually prepared by the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. And quite frankly, I for one do not find one party even more amenable to pro-life issues or any candidates for that matter. I had occasion to review last week the early responses of the candidates for Governor and Senator for and from Florida and none of them perfectly meets the matrix of the broad range of “pro-life” issues. So once again, as so often before, the voter of conscience spends these forty-days wondering who is the lesser of two evils. The Florida Catholic Conference Candidate Questionnaire with the responses of our candidates will be published shortly and well before the election.
So you may not be joining us in the prayer service near abortion clinics or on a picket line but you can use these “run-up” days to study the issues and the stand of the candidates on the broad range of pro-life issues. Abortion is the worst of all the evils but it is not alone in its threat to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”