The following is the transcript of an address I gave at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention 25th April, 2014.
“The Gospel of Life” John Paul II tells us “is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture”.
As we come together tonight, on the first night of the Eucharistic Convention, I wish to share with you my passion for proclaiming the Gospel of Life while giving you an overview of the current situation, some of the things that we at Family Life International NZ are doing to promote life, faith and family and ask you to consider your part in building a culture of life.
Blessed John Paul II tells us that the “mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature… is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenceless.”
The Gospel of Life was written almost 20 years ago. The attacks against life and the dignity of the human person have increased significantly.
The urgency with which we must act is critical.
There are many issues that we could talk about today and in great depth! Time does not allow for this but here is a sprinkling of some of the issues we face…
Abortion This coming December marks 37 years since the passing of the Contraception, Abortion and Sterilisation Act, as well as the amendment to the Crimes Act in 1977 to allow abortion. It is a long struggle to protect innocent unborn children from certain death, and their mothers from numerous physical and mental problems. Abortion tears families apart as the fathers and grandparents have no rights to protect in our law.
How is it that we can let 14,745 unborn lives every year be ended in the name of choice? While the numbers are declining, just one life is too many.
Just about everyone knows someone who has had an abortion. Despite being so commonplace, we don’t talk about it, for fear of offending someone. Even within our Church there are those who are misguided into believing that abortion is “a necessary evil”, something to be tolerated in certain circumstances, such as when a baby is diagnosed with a lethal or even non-lethal foetal anomaly in utero.
At our Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centres, we see women of all ages thinking that the only choice they have is to end their pregnancy through abortion. They believe this because of their circumstances, because of a lack of support, because of a lack of options given. When they discover that they do have other options and that there are people who care to walk with them, not just right at this moment, but right through their pregnancy until baby is born and for however long that support is required afterwards, then they see a glimmer of hope. In that moment they know they can choose the only option that a mother’s heart really wants to choose – life.
Right now, our Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centres in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin are caring for 20 women and families and we have 15 babies due to be born before December! Last year 4 of our mothers chose adoption for their babies and they are now thriving with their adoptive families. What a selfless and beautiful act of love. Over the years our Centres have literally saved hundreds of mums and bubs. It is such a privilege to be able to serve in this way.
One of our babies, Benedict, is now being investigated by the Vatican in regard to the cause for sainthood of Mother Adele Garnier the foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – the Tyburn nuns. You see, Benedict, initially saved from abortion, was found to have severe holoprosencephaly, where the forebrain hasn’t developed properly, while still in his mother’s womb. Scans kept saying the same thing. There was no hope that this baby would live after birth, in fact his mother was told he may even be born still. Doctors pressed her to have an abortion, over and over. How rude and arrogant the medical profession were to this young mother.
Our director Colleen, took this mother out to the Tyburn monastery in Bombay. There, she poured her heart out to God asking him to fix her baby. The nuns prayed, we prayed. Mother Adele Garnier’s intercession was sought. Through the grace of God this brave mother found the courage to continue.
The Missionaries of Charity came soon after little Benedict was born, as had been arranged, to baptise this wee man, knowing that his life was to be very short. As his mother lay in the hospital, Colleen was at home asleep. Waking at 3 am she had a vision of a nun standing over a little baby, smiling. Colleen knew at this moment that the boy had been born and that all would be well. And it was! Benedict was born thriving with no indication of the condition that doctors said he had and should be aborted for.
His mother took him home to South Africa as she was unable to stay here. But Little Benedict, who is now 9, is to come back to New Zealand very soon so that all the necessary medical tests can be done to satisfy the Vatican on this matter. We do not know what God has in store for this little boy, if his life and healing will be declared a miracle or not. But we do know that God heard the prayer of this distraught young woman that day in the Tyburn Chapel.
This leads me to the point that at Family Life International, we understand that we can only serve with love by immersing ourselves in prayer. Prayer is at the very heart of everything we do. In fact, our Chapel of the Annunciation sits in the very heart of our Auckland John Paul II Centre for Life.
Because prayer is at the heart of our mission, it was a very logical step to take on the 40 Days for Life vigil. These vigils began in 2004 by the Coalition for Life in Texas. Not knowing what more they could do to motivate people to get involved and how they could end abortion in their own town, they prayed. It was during that prayer that they realised that God was calling them to put their trust in him. They decided to spend 40 days in prayer and fasting outside their local Planned Parenthood 24/7!
The vigils went nationwide in 2007 and are now spreading around the world.
In 2009, the clinic director of the Planned Parenthood facility left and became a powerful pro-life advocate. Her name you may know – Abby Johnson. Just last year that clinic CLOSED for good!
Many good and faithful people have prayed for many years in our Churches, outside the abortuaries, in their homes. And their prayers and peaceful witness have been heard and answered. But I have to say there is something very special about praying 40 days, every day outside the place of death. Uniting our prayers, not only with those present, but those who are house-bound or unable to attend for practical reasons is powerful. But the awesomeness of this event really comes into its own when we consider how many Christians are praying simultaneously throughout the world for the same intention! This year there were 253 40 Days for Life locations in 11 countries!
God is always faithful. He hears the prayers of those who in great humility place their trust in him.
This past Lent has been no exception. 661 precious children have been saved from abortion! Two of them in our own city!
Hearts and minds have been changed through the numerous conversations held on the street.
40 Days for Life is not just about “pro-life” – it is about evangelisation. So many of our conversations were faith related.
I have always found John Paul II’s 1993 World Youth Day homily incredibly inspiring. In it, I always feel he is speaking directly to me. I would love to share with you the whole homily! But as time does not permit, let me take two paragraphs:
“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads” and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.
Jesus went in search of the men and women of his time. He engaged them in an open and truthful dialogue, whatever their condition. As the Good Samaritan of the human family, he came close to people to heal them of their sins and of the wounds which life inflicts, and to bring them back to the Father’s house.”
This I believe encapsulates 40 Days for Life and all prayer outside the places of death! Only God knows the true outcome of our public daily witness to life and truth, but we know our presence impacted many, many lives.
I want to thank each and every one of you who took time out of your busy lives to come and pray outside AMAC this Lent. Many of you are here this weekend. It is not easy to stand on the street I know, but you have been a light in the dark. You have loved the innocent babies who have been rejected and forgotten by their own mother. You have been a sign of hope.
We are looking forward to many more people joining us in vigil next Lent.
Abortion is a major issue for you to consider this election year. ALRANZ (the Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ), Family Planning, Young Labour and the Greens are all very keen to liberalise our abortion law.
Professor David Fergusson whose research team found abortion does present a small increase in mental health issues in women is now using this as a reason to support liberalisation our abortion law. He believes we should allow abortion on demand for social reasons, such as economic pressures or lack of support. How this cares for the health of women I am not sure, but “choice” it seems trumps mental health!
Contraception We need to be aware of the increasing push for women and young girls to use long acting reversible contraception. Commonly referred to as LARCs these contraceptives include Jadelle, a two rod implant that releases hormones over a four to five year period (this is the most popular), IUDs and the Depo Provera injection. Each of these methods of birth control act in a way that can potentially cause the demise of a newly conceived human being. In this way many thousands more babies are aborted each year through the use of these so-called contraceptives. Do not be fooled by recent rhetoric which says that these methods do not cause early abortions. Back in 1965 the definition of when pregnancy began was changed to mean at implantation, not at fertilisation. Fertilisation of course is the moment when a new life is formed with its own DNA. Changing the definition of pregnancy or conception, means that the first six or so days of a person’s life does not matter. Allowing people to be fooled into thinking they can use abortifacient contraceptives, undergo IVF and embryo experimentation without ending the life of a human being. Any drug, device that works to prevent that newly conceived life finding its home in the womb has the potential to cause a very early abortion. In the case of IVF, unwanted embryos are discarded. These are our forgotten children.
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a large bomb getting ready to explode. Maryann Street’s End of Life Choice Bill was withdrawn from the ballot last year. However, she vows to re-submit the bill after the elections take place later this year. Her proposed Bill was full of loopholes. Disturbingly, one clause gave anyone who participated in the euthanasia/assisted suicide process immunity from prosecution, if they in good faith missed one of the legal steps. One only has to look to Belgium where it is now legal for children to request euthanasia, and see just where this kind of legislation will eventually lead.
Donald De Marco reminds us that “Compassion can be a bridge either to despair or to hope. As a mere feeling that seeks to remove the sufferer since it finds suffering unacceptable, compassion leads to despair. As a virtue rooted in love, compassion leads to another virtue rooted in love – hope.”
Shortly our comprehensive publication on euthanasia will be available to download.
Sex Education. The push for schools to provide a universal comprehensive sexuality curriculum is very strong. In light of recent events, it has even been suggested that this sexuality education be compulsory – meaning parents should not have that right to remove their children from classes – or that children can remove themselves either. Family Planning are deeply involved in this, as they are with the student health clinics. We must be teaching our children the virtue of chastity. It has been great to see the adoption of Theology of the Body in a number of parishes.
Redefined Marriage Since the last Eucharistic Convention, marriage has been redefined in this country. Marriage now is the public recognition of a committed relationship between two adults for their fulfilment. It could be argued that this definition has been in existence for some time and the law change only legitimised that which everyone believed anyway. But marriage should be an institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. Marriage is a communion of love. Children do best when mum and dad are married. And they do best when they have a mum and a dad, not two mums, not two dads.
We must continue to fight for real marriage. We must do so because the current definition is leading us down a path of destruction, which includes a threat to our religious freedom.
Yes, there is a lot of horrible things happening in our beloved country. Yes, the attacks are coming strong and fast.
But in the darkness there is HOPE!
Remembering today is ANZAC Day and the heroic actions of those who fought for the common good, I put it to you that we are fighting a new war, a war that involves our freedom of religion, the dignity of the human person, the protection of marriage and family and the innocence of our children. Today, we need modern day heroes who are willing to make sacrifices, and to fight without ceasing for TRUTH.
As Catholics it is our duty to recognise that these attacks on life, faith and family are of a spiritual nature first, then we can act and serve with love. Only after seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, immersing ourselves in the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both through Holy Communion and Eucharistic Adoration and by praying the Holy Rosary can we draw the strength and the necessary graces to truly be God’s hands and feet on this earth.
“This situation”, John Paul II tells us “with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”
I am often asked what is the answer? Christ of course is the answer. St Augustine’s famous quote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee” describes the restless hearts in society’s young and old. Always searching, they look in the wrong places. Thinking freedom comes from being able to do as the please, having dominion over themselves. Yet, true freedom, comes from aligning our will with God’s.
A massive shift in thinking is required by the world. It is a shift that can be taken by everyone when practical and reasoned approaches are taken that appeal to that inner-most natural law that is written on every person’s heart. However, ultimately if it is to take hold and really bear fruit, it must be rooted in a conversion to Christ. Therefore, if we are to really bring about a culture of life, we must start in our own communities, our own parishes, our own families. It can be done, I believe, one community at a time. But it takes commitment, it takes faithfulness, and it takes great faith and trust in God.
Each of us at some point must make a decision to be unconditionally pro-life. Every day we make decisions that lead to life or death.
For the single person it is choosing to be chaste; for the married couple it is being open to life and rejecting artificial methods of birth control or sterilisation; for the young single girl who finds herself pregnant it is responsibly accept the consequence of her actions and choose life for her baby; for her parents to embrace her, support her and help bring her baby to birth; for the sick and the elderly it is choosing to offer up their illness or difficulties of old age and not succumbing to the temptation to end their lives early. Each time one of us makes a choice for life, we rebuild the culture.
While much has already been done by so many people throughout the years, I believe that the time has come for a revolution and all of us need to be involved.
We need our youth with all their enthusiasm and joy. We need our older people with all their wisdom and experience. We need our families, who are the first teachers of their children and who courageously live a culture of life and love in their homes.
I believe our schools and medical professionals and politicians have a great responsibility to speak the truth and to remove everything they can that leads to a culture of death. Our Catholic schools must teach sexuality in the context of the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. They must not buy into the secular view. It leads our children to destruction. They must teach our children the true faith.
Doctors must not refer for abortion or sterilisation. Catholic doctors must have the courage to teach Natural Fertility Regulation and not to give out contraception.
Our politicians must uphold the dignity of the human person from conception through to natural death. They need to be writing and promoting legislation that reflects this.
We need our religious and priests to lead, to teach and to encourage, all the while speaking the truth of the Gospel.
Thank you to all of you who do these things and more already. Your efforts are making a difference.
Let us work together because we can bring about change. Together we can bring the light of Christ to the world. Christ who is our hope. Christ who is the answer to the present culture of death.
Be not afraid.
Let us ask for the intercession of John Paul II, the great Apostle of Life, and Our Blessed Mother of Guadalupe as we embrace the challenge to proclaim the Gospel of Life.