Earlier this month, Human Life International sponsored a pro-life conference for clergy in Mexico City where some of my brother priests were confronted with the true horror of abortion for the first time in their lives. In many parts of Latin America unborn life is protected, so the daily struggle to expose abortion we face here in the United States just isn’t the same. Though we’ve been wrapped up in news about court cases and legislative disputes recently, it’s important to keep in mind that the assault on faith, reason and freedom we are seeing here at home is playing out in very different ways around the world.
A large part of HLI’s mission is to communicate the essence of this struggle, and the urgency of responding to it, to priests and seminarians here at home and around the world. That is why Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico, invited us to host our conference in his archdiocese, which is home to the Patroness of the Americas, and of the pro-life movement, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As with much of HLI’s efforts to sustain and nourish a Culture of Life, the conference’s primary focus was to provide our bishops, priests and seminarians with the tools necessary to confront the threats against life, faith and family. The opening address was presented by the Most Reverend Rodrigo Aguilar, president of the Commission on Life for the Mexican Bishops’ Conference. His Excellency’s presentation focused on human dignity and Christian anthropology in contrast to the secular anthropology, which anchors man’s identity and purpose in the temporal sphere. As noted by the bishop, a proper Christian anthropology leads to transformation and authentic freedom, while the other leads to virtual enslavement to one’s senses, passions and appetites — a spiritual impoverishment.
Quoting the great champion of human dignity, John Paul II, Bishop Aguilar recalled the opening sentences of Evangelium Vitae:
Man is called to a fullness of life, which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase.
Bishop Aguilar made it clear that only within a proper Christian anthropology could man and woman bear fruit that will last unto eternal life. “The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message…and it is precisely in this life that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance” (EV 1). His remarks and reflections challenged us in Holy Orders and those discerning the priesthood to preach the full message of the Gospel of Life, which leads to freedom. Silence and complacency, on the other hand, further deepens the reigning spiritual impoverishment, threatening God’s people.
The culmination of the conference was powerful. Because the Federal District is the only state within Mexico where abortion is legalized (up to the 12th week), we felt it was important for the bishops, priests and seminarians to see the graphic images of abortion — putting the word of the relevant teaching and discussion in a true flesh and blood context. On the evening of the second day, we showed a video of two abortions: one early-term and one late-term. Seeing the reality of abortion for the first time changes a person, especially considering that this form of murder is protected in law in so many places.
The next day, we invited all attendees to pray at three abortion facilities early Friday morning. Because the abortion facilities open at 6:30 AM, the day began at 4:00 AM with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. My heart was moved to see the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe filled. At 5:15 AM we boarded four buses.
I traveled with two of the buses to one of the abortion facilities nearer to the airport; I had prayed there before. We arrived at 6:00 AM and the sidewalks were filled with men and women. They seemed to be mostly young teenagers, though some were clearly parents with daughters. Sixty mothers are allowed to enter the facility. Though the air was cool, it was heavy with the reality of what was soon to happen — the murder of little boys and girls.
We gathered together in front of the main gate and prayed aloud. Our presence could not be ignored. It was clear that many of those gathered for an abortion were very uncomfortable with our presence. I would also say the lives of my brother priests and seminarians were deeply affected as well. As with those who witness an abortion, no one who keeps vigil in front of an abortion facility walks away the same. One cannot look into the eyes and faces of their sisters and be unaffected. Again, it was no longer mere words, power point presentations, videos and handouts, it was flesh and blood.
Between the three abortion facilities we visited that morning, 11 mothers and their babies were saved. Praise God!
As we pray for strength and guidance in how we can best act to defend marriage and life here at home, let’s remember that we do so in solidarity with the faithful around the world. Let Our Lord’s will be done through us, with our full assent, trust, love and hope.
LifeNews Note: Fr. Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International. This column originally appeared at its WorldWatch Forum and is reprinted with permission.