By Diane Freeby
ARLINGTON, Va. — “When you think about the forces of evil in the culture of death that we need to confront and challenge, our strongest weapon in this battle for life is prayer.”
That was the resounding theme Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades shared with members of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who packed St. Ann’s Church last Saturday morning in Arlington, Va. After participating in Friday’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., many joined together to celebrate the Eucharist before spending a day of sightseeing and boarding buses for the overnight drive home.
Bishop Rhoades took time to thank the individual schools and groups who publicly stood up for life. Evoking “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), by Pope John Paul II, Bishop Rhoades reminded the young people how necessary it is to offer great prayer to God for the causes of life. He exhorted them to continue at home what they started in Washington, D.C.
“Sometimes we underestimate the power of prayer when it’s over,” said Bishop Rhoades. “When you go home … continue to pray for the cause of life. For all those lives that are vulnerable and threatened by abortion, or by physician assisted suicide, or by euthanasia or by embryonic stem-cell research … all these threats to human life.
“And also we pray for the people in Haiti, and all the lives that are still in danger today because of lack of adequate medical care and clean water and food,” he added. “And that’s what’s so beautiful about our Catholic Church. We stand up for life at every stage of development — from the tiniest embryo in the mother’s womb to the very end of life for those who are terminally ill and approaching death. We believe that every human being has the right to life, that every life is precious and holy … the innate dignity of the human person.”
Bishop Rhoades acknowledged how countercultural living the faith can be at times. But because so many today have bought into the lies of the culture of death, Bishop Rhoades said, it’s important to not only pray for life, but to stand up for truth.
“And the truth is,” continued Bishop Rhoades, “all human life is a precious gift from God. Now some leaders and pro-choice Catholic politicians will say, ‘Well, that’s a matter of religious faith, and you can’t impose your faith on other people.’ Well, it’s more than religious faith. Through the use of right reason we know that human life begins at conception. It’s a biological fact, an objective fact! It’s part of what we call the natural law, so even people who don’t share our Christian faith can come to the understanding that that little embryo in the mother’s womb is not part of the woman’s body. It’s a human being separate from the mother and the father. And therefore deserves our total respect. So it’s a truth not only of faith, but it’s the truth of reason.”
Bishop Rhoades said his motto, something all bishops are required to choose for themselves upon ordination, is “Truth in Charity.” He reminded the young people how they are called to love and not condemn women who have abortions and to reach out to them with the love and mercy of Christ.
“And that’s something the Catholic Church does,” Bishop Rhoades said. “I don’t know any organization or institution in the world that does more to assist women who are contemplating abortion, or women who have had abortions, than the Catholic Church. So we don’t condemn them, but we love them and we help them to repent of this sin because abortion not only is the killing of innocent human life, it can also kill the soul of those who participate in it. So we can work to bring about their healing and reconciliation.”
Bishop Rhoades admitted it’s a lot harder to love those who are proponents of the culture of death, but to look no farther than the example set by Jesus Christ Himself, who asks us to love our enemies.
“We should pray for abortionists,” he said. “We should pray for those politicians who are pro-choice. Because the power of prayer can bring about their conversion as well. To love them can help bring about a change in their mind and in their heart. To be pro-life, we must always proclaim the truth in charity.”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the young people to do that through their prayer and the way they relate with those who disagree with them. But he cautioned them not to minimize the truth, and never to downplay the truth about the evil of abortion.
“I thank you again for your witness to life these past few days,” concluded Bishop Rhoades. “For your prayers for life. For your marching for life. For enduring some of the hardship of sleeping on the floor and going many hours on a bus, and for that sacrifice. … When we go back to Indiana, continue to witness for life. In your schools, in your parishes, in your communities, in your families … to proclaim the truth with love and charity.”
For more photos from the Mass click here.
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