It’s not too late to join this pro-life novena

Marchers10 A sign features St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) at the 51st March for Life, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. | Credit: Christina Herrera/EWTN News

The March for Life, one of the largest annual human rights demonstrations, is taking place today, Friday, Jan. 19, in Washington, D.C. While it’s too early to know just how many people came to the nation’s capital to march in the snow this year, typically hundreds of thousands of pro-life people participate in this massive demonstration calling for greater respect for life in all its stages.

Whether you made it to the capital or not today, you can still join with other pro-life people to pray for an end to abortion. For a decade now, the U.S. bishops have encouraged people everywhere to join in prayer for the legal protection of children in the womb, in particular by way of the 9 Days for Life novena.

Sponsored each year since 2014 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the novena — a traditional Catholic practice consisting of a nine-day series of petitionary prayers — coincides with Jan. 22, the anniversary of the now-overturned 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, as well as a special day for pro-life prayer in the Catholic Church.

Each day of the novena — which began Jan. 16 — participants pray for a specific intention related to ending abortion and are provided with “a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life.” You can still sign up for the novena by visiting this website. 

Although Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, returning the power to regulate abortion to the states, pro-life people still need to pray for and vote in favor of greater protection for unborn children, Bishop Michael Burbidge, the USCCB’s Pro-Life Committee chairman, wrote recently. 

“In this shifting political landscape, we persist confidently in our efforts to defend life. The work that lies ahead continues to be not just changing laws but also helping to change hearts, with steadfast faith in the power of God to do so. The task before us begins with our knowledge of the truth and our courage to speak it and to live it with compassion,” Burbidge, the bishop of Arlington, wrote Jan. 17. 

Burbidge in his statement listed links to several pro-life initiatives that Catholics can support, such as the parish-based Walking with Moms in Need support program for pregnant women and post-abortion support groups such as Project Rachel Ministries.

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

As mentioned before, the novena coincides with the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which the Church in the U.S. celebrates each year on Jan. 22. 

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) designates Jan. 22 (or Jan. 23 if Jan. 22 is a Sunday) as a particular day of prayer and penance. The USCCB includes information about this day on its website, saying that the day is to be observed as “a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”

Dioceses across the country typically host events such as Masses and Holy Hours on Jan. 22 for those affected by abortion as well as for pilgrims attending pro-life demonstrations coinciding with this day — check your local diocesan website for information on opportunities for prayer or a pro-life demonstration in your area. Scripture readings with a particularly pro-life message are listed as suggestions on the USCCB website for priests to use at Mass.

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