.- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston encouraged pro-life pilgrims from across America to deepen their faith, explaining that a culture of life must be founded upon the conversion of our own lives.
“Our task is to live our faith so intensely,” the cardinal said, “that we will generate a culture of life.”
Over 13,000 people gathered on the evening of Jan. 24 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.
Cardinal O’Malley, recently appointed chairman-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass, which was concelebrated by 324 priests, 41 bishops, and six cardinals.
The vigil continued with confessions, prayer and holy hours celebrated throughout the night. It concluded on the morning of Jan. 25 with a closing Mass, at which Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas was the principal celebrant and homilist. Over 5,500 were in attendance.
Participants were then able to attend the annual March for Life in downtown D.C., along the National Mall to the Supreme Court building.
In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley focused on “great pro-life Gospel” that takes place during the visitation of Elizabeth. In the Gospel, he said, “John dances like David dancing before the Arc of the Covenant” when he first encounters his unborn cousin, Jesus.
The cardinal also highlighted the importance of Mary, noting that by saying “yes” to carrying Christ, “Mary is saying yes to God, yes to life, yes to love, and yes even to the Cross.”
He explained that because of this emphasis on accepting life, “the Gospel of Life is an imperative to Christ’s disciples,” both in the first centuries of the Church and today.
“Christ through his Church is urging us to be defenders of life in a culture of death,” he said.
“We have been wandering in the desert for 40 years,” Cardinal O'Malley said, however recent cultural shifts show that we “are nearing the promised land.”
As technology advances, the dignity of the human person becomes more evident, he observed, and according to recent surveys, “young Americans are now more pro-life than ever.”
However, there is still a battle to be fought, he cautioned, as Roe v. Wade has institutionalized a grave injustice against the unborn within the Constitution.
“Too many Americans see abortion as a necessary evil,” said Cardinal O’Malley. Going forth, he urged, the pro-life movement needs to work to show that abortion is not “a necessary evil: it’s simply evil.”
The cardinal pointed to work that pro-life groups within his own diocese have done to expose the evils of the culture of death. A wide coalition of pro-life and disabilities advocates succeeded in halting an attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts in Nov. 2012, despite significant initial support for the measure.
Cardinal O'Malley said the motion “was like the race between the tortoise and the hare,” gaining slow and steady support for protecting life within the state.
Still, he warned, although the pro-life movement won a victory in that instance, the continuation of abortion in the U.S. will lead to more efforts to support euthanasia.
“A society that allows parents to kill children will allow children to kill parents,” he cautioned.