Written by Michael Fones
Tuesday, 22 January 2008 09:01
A Day of Penance
People at the 6:30 a.m. Mass were a bit surprised when I appeared wearing violet vestments today. I quickly explained that the U.S. Bishops have declared today to be a day of penance in commemoration of Roe v. Wade and the millions of children killed by abortion since. The following paragraph is from the Ordo for today's Mass.
In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass “For Peace and Justice” (no. 22 of the “Masses for Various Needs”) should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day.
General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373
Our penance might be fasting and/or abstinence, and certainly additional prayer on behalf of those who have died, those women who have had abortions and the fathers of their children, and those who perform or assist in the performance of abortions. But it might also be an opportune moment to take time from our busy schedules and discover what are the local resources for pregnant women. What do they do? What assistance might they need, financial or otherwise.
Another possibility might be to locate your nearest branch of Project Rachel, the Catholic Church's outreach to women who have had abortions, or find out when and where the next Rachel's Vineyard retreat for women suffering from post-abortion grief might be held and offering support. There may be opportunities to help them out in their ministries.
I mentioned in my homily that abortion is a sin that is also a symptom. While it is important to work to overturn Roe v. Wade, simply making abortion illegal does not deal with the complex issues and environments that make abortion desirable. This means understanding and acknowledging the effects of the sexual revolution (including our complicity as we and our children absorb the values found on Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and the innumerable spinoffs of The Bachelor), dealing with the poverty that so many women face, and, in general, our refusal to evangelize our neighbor and to shape the institutions of our culture. All of this requires the cooperation of the clergy in teaching with the Church and really understanding Her position, and the laity bringing their expertise and understanding of the complex issues that underlie and promote abortion. This is a necessary and potentially fruitful area of collaboration between the laity and their priests and bishops.
While today is rightfully a day of penance and lamentation, for all those 35 and younger, it might also be a day of thanksgiving. Your mothers and fathers chose to give you birth.
In light of Fr. Mike's post above, you might want to check out this post about the marvelous Nurturing Network which offers women a choice that is good for both mother and baby. NN has saved 28,000 lives. Check em out.