Pro-Life Dos and Don’ts for 2009

January 22, 2009

From Fr. Euteneuer:

Dear Friends of Life,

The pro-life movement is going through a great deal of self-examination at this time. I am not a pessimist, but my sense of realism tells me that the election of extreme abortion advocate, Barack Obama, and the nearly 7,000 political appointments of his administration will usher in a new decade of war on decency and the sanctity of life. Despite the ferocious optimism of his inauguration, the dark clouds of the culture of death are gathering over Washington as we speak, ready to cast their darkness everywhere.

In this time of preparation for the upcoming total war on life, I offer this modest list of Dos and Don’ts for the generous and valiant pro-lifers who gather for the March for Life in Washington, DC on January 22nd. May all men and women of good will take these recommendations to heart for a fruitful pro-life 2009!

DON’TS

1. Above all, do not grow despondent: there is much to fear for the situation of life around the world, but we are not permitted by our Christian faith to give up our efforts or zeal for life. In fact, we need to redouble it!

2. Do not become absorbed in the quest for a political solution to abortion: after 36 years of working for a political solution to abortion, we may soon see the wiping out of most, if not all, of the pro-life movement’s gains with the stroke of a pen. Politics has failed. Or rather, we have failed at politics. Either way, politics now offers us little chance of anything other than just trying to slow the massive momentum of the culture of death.

3. Do not waste any more energy on overturning Roe: two Supreme Court seats are assured during an Obama administration, and they will undoubtedly be filled with extreme pro-abortion activist judges. A third appointment will leave us with no hope of overturning Roe in anyone’s lifetime reading this. For that matter, the chance that a good pro-life President will succeed Obama in four years and nullify the leftward lurch of the high court is, shall we say, unlikely. Let’s get hopes of undoing Roe out of our system and focus on more productive things.

DOS

1. Pray every day for God to end abortion with our help (in that order): abortion is such a great spiritual and social evil that only the divine power of God Himself can end it. “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” but God will not do it alone. He needs us to humbly recognize the basic fact that it is humanly impossible to end this evil. We need to get on our knees and beg His Mercy on the unborn and the conversion of all those who commit these evils.

2. Commit to fasting every week to end the evils of abortion and contraception: “Some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” said the Lord, and we have to take that admonition seriously if we are to effect any change in the hearts of our people or of our society. Fasting makes us more spiritual and gives greater efficacy to all our works and prayers.

3. Take back the culture: Even if the anti-lifers hold the reins of political power, we must not sit back and allow moral anarchists to define all the terms of the cultural or social agenda. Whether it is through social activism for life (crisis pregnancy centers, pickets and prayer marches) or through touching hearts and minds one soul at a time (persuasion, formation, teaching, media), we cannot be neutral about the direction our American culture is heading. It is leading us to certain spiritual death, and no one can afford that. We need to fight for it and never give up the battle.

I promise you that Human Life International will be in the struggle for lives and souls continuously. It is our calling and mission. We will never give one inch to uphold the truth that the whole world needs to hear more than ever: namely, that human life is sacred from the first moment of natural fertilization to the moment of natural death – and we will defend it whether Obama likes it or not.

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How Beauty Can Renew the Catholic Church

January 22, 2009

From Inside Catholic:

The criticism of a recent column, “My New Year’s Wish for the Church,” forced me to think more deeply about the road to renewal in the Catholic Church. Several readers argued I was forcing Evangelical habits on a Catholic parish.

Of course, I would still insist that Catholics need to be more welcoming to each other and to parish visitors. But the key to Catholic renewal is found elsewhere, at the heart of what it means to practice the Faith.

In my earlier column, I spoke about the lack of “connectedness” that many non-practicing Catholics report when they are asked why they have stopped attending Mass. I limited my interpretation of this to their sense of rapport with other worshippers — that is, I think, what elicited the criticism. It gave the impression that Catholics should primarily nurture an emotional connection among the members of the parish community to evangelize. Personal recognition is a good thing, but it is not the primary thing, at least among Catholics.

So what makes Catholics distinctive among other Christian groups? Certainly papal primacy, the authority of bishops and priests, the universality of the Church, and the meaning of sacraments are among the most important. Of the sacraments, our belief in the “real presence” of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist not only distinguishes us doctrinally but liturgically as well. When a Catholic comes to Mass, his expectation — the one foremost in his mind — should be this real encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. If this encounter with His presence lacks vibrancy — if it has the ho-hum quality of required ritual — then renewal is the antidote.

How is this vitality recovered? This is where I think the “logic” of being Catholic sends us on a different course than that followed by other faith groups. There is the tendency to assume this renewal should be summoned up from within, based upon prayer, rosaries, or some sort of spiritual exercises. These are all good to do, of course, but that leaves aside the most obvious place to look for renewal: the liturgy itself.

Let me offer the following example: Have you ever prayed in a great cathedral when the organ was playing or the choir was singing a Gregorian chant, a Mass by one of the Renaissance greats — Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis, or Byrd — or some form of music that moved you? Did you find it easier to pray? Did you find yourself going deeper, praying longer, and rising to leave with a rare sense of joy at having been on your knees?

I know that the local parish is rarely a great cathedral, or even a building of architectural distinction, and I know that most parish choirs are not schooled in either chant or Renaissance polyphony. But, I would ask, how much effort are we, both laity and religious, putting into the beauty of our liturgy? After all, isn’t it the beauty of the music, architecture, stained glass, images, homily, and the liturgical gestures that engage our senses and focus our minds on divine things?

In 2oo2, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger delivered a sermon, “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty,” where he said:

The most convincing demonstration of [faith’s] truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.

How much lost “connectedness” would be recovered if more attention were paid to encounters with “the Beautiful” in the liturgy, so that it was never perfunctory, listless, or offensive to the ear and eye?

Don’t misunderstand me. Beauty in the liturgy isn’t just a matter of better music and homilies; it requires its proper form (i.e., rubrics) as prescribed by the Church.

In a later column, I will argue that the beauty of liturgy, emanating from the Eucharistic sacrifice, has been marred by misguided liturgical improvisation. Dumbed-down liturgies have only increased the distance many Catholics feel from their Church, whatever their good intentions.


Life. Imagine the potential

January 22, 2009