A few days ago, we posted a video to our website with photos of some of the babies saved from abortion in 2017 thanks to the efforts of the incredible staff and volunteers of Human Life International. Looking at those photos, it amazes me that each of those precious babies was in danger of being a victim of horrific violence, and their mothers and fathers consigned to a lifetime of guilt and regret. Instead, these children are living and growing, bringing joy to their parents and others by the miracle of their existence. Every human person is a universe unto themselves, an eternal soul, and thanks to the work of HLI’s staff and volunteers, each of these babies has been given opportunity to live, instead of being tossed into a dumpster or flushed unceremoniously down the drain.
Photos like these are a powerful affirmation of the goodness of pro-life work, of what amazing things can be accomplished when we stay the course and witness to life. They invigorate my spirit, and give me the motivation that I need to continue this sometimes exhausting work. As we stand on the doorstep of a new year, it is a good time to take stock of the past year, to thank God for the successes, to mourn the failures, and to make some conscious resolutions for how to do even more to defend life and family in the New Year.
The Christian life is nothing other than a perpetual renewal of our resolutions. Here are a handful of practical resolutions that we can all make in the coming year to help build a culture of life and family:
1) Pray every single day for the end of abortion. Sometimes we are too apt to forget the deceptively simple, but by far the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal – prayer. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you,” says Christ. (John 15:7) Let us never tire of pleading with our Heavenly Father for an end to the scourge of abortion and for the defense of marriage and the family. Do not underestimate the power of insistent, heartfelt prayer.
2) If you are married, do something every day to strengthen your own marriage. The world is starving for examples of holy, faithful, and fruitful marriages! In an age when marriage is under assault everywhere, we cannot afford to be complacent. The devil hates strong marriages. He will throw everything he can at such marriages, trying to exploit our weak points. “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We are mistaken if we think that the breakdown of marriage began with the effort redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Same-sex “marriage” was merely the culmination of decades of the erosion of marriage, beginning with the severing of sex from procreation, and the legalization of no-fault divorce. To begin rebuilding marriage, begin with your own marriage. Pray together with your spouse every day; be open to life; eschew every hint of unfaithfulness in your marriage, above all the use of pornography; carve out time to be together with your spouse; go on a marriage retreat. Work hard to build something strong, beautiful, and good – be a light to your children and neighbors.
3) Donate regularly to your favorite pro-life organizations. Nobody likes to talk about money. But the fact is, the enemies of life and family are extraordinarily well funded. The richest and most powerful people on the planet are often willing to bequeath enormous wealth to the most rabidly anti-life and anti-family organizations. Money isn’t everything, but when ordinary Christians are willing to sacrifice from their treasure to support the good work of pro-life and pro-family organizations, their generosity can bear unbelievable fruits in the form of lives saved, good ideas promoted, and the culture of death opposed. Take stock of your financial situation, and if you find that you have the capacity to be more generous than you have been with charitable giving, consider setting up a regular monthly donation to one or more pro-life or pro-family groups.
4) Go pray outside an abortion clinic at least once this year. As long as we keep the evil of abortion at arm’s length, it is easy to slip into complacency. We can write our checks to pro-life organizations. We can pray for the end of abortion in our morning prayers. But unless we sometimes remind ourselves of the very real, very physical evil that is happening on a daily basis within our own neighborhoods, we may lose some of the righteous zeal that can push us to pursue more heroic measures. Fortunately, there is a strong and growing global movement of peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion facilities, as well counseling the mothers and fathers going into them. Look up your local 40 Days for Life Campaign, and if there isn’t a prayer vigil happening outside your town’s abortion facility, think about helping to organize one. We constantly hear about women who chose life for their babies, simply because they saw pro-lifers out front praying for them and their baby. You may never know the impact you have had by stepping forward and making yourself a public, visible witness to the sanctity of life.
5) Volunteer at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center. This can be one of the most rewarding pro-life activities that you can undertake! Counselors and other support staff at crisis pregnancy centers are on the front lines of the battle for life, dealing directly with at-risk women and men, providing them with the information and support that they need to choose life, even when things look hopeless. There are thousands of crisis pregnancy centers all across the country – in fact crisis pregnancy centers significantly outnumber abortion clinics! However, many of them depend heavily on the support of volunteers to operate. Tragically, some crisis pregnancy centers are only able to keep limited hours, due to the lack of volunteer staff, meaning that some vulnerable women will be turned away in their moment of need.
6) Grow in holiness. You may wonder what this has to do with ending abortion or defending the sanctity of marriage. However, one stark reality that I fear we don’t give enough thought to, is that the reason that evils like abortion take root in a culture, is because individuals like you and me have failed to witness to the power of Christ’s love through the examples of our own lives. In this sense, we are all responsible for the culture of death, because we are not yet what God created us to be – saints! A culture is composed of individuals, and is only as good as the individuals that make it up. We can scheme, and launch new movements and organizations, and enact all manner of brilliant pro-life and pro-family activities – but without personal conversion, all of these will be futile. While pro-life organizations must do more to meet the practical needs that drive men and women to abortion, we can never lose sight of the root cause of abortion: that we are not yet a culture composed of saints. The theologians would say that goodness is “self-diffusive.” That means, by its very nature it spreads. If we think about what a single great saint – a Francis Xavier, a John Paul II, a Francis of Assisi, a Therese of Lisieux – can accomplish merely by the example of their holiness, we will realize that attaining holiness must be our first and most urgent priority.
Though we have had many successes throughout 2017, we must be prepared to fight the good fight in 2018. Our battles in 2017 continue and we urgently need courageous people to get involved. These six resolutions above are by no means exhaustive. I could write dozens more, and I am sure you can think of many more. But they are certainly an excellent place to start. The important thing is never to give into complacency or to assume that creating a Culture of Life is “somebody else’s job.” Even if you are not in a position to dedicate significant time or resources to the battle for life and family, there are numerous things that you can do on a daily basis to contribute, starting with creating a culture of life and family in your own home. As Mother Teresa once said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
On the other hand, this may be your wake-up call to realize that you do have the capacity to do much more than you have so far done – and if so, have the courage to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, roll up your sleeves, and get involved!