PROVIDENCE — The diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry hosted the annual Human Life Guild Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on Jan. 12, drawing a large crowd of Catholics to pray for respect for life as the nation nears the March for Life and the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
“This is a very important witness for our diocesan church — so many people coming out for Mass and gathering today because they’re personally involved in, personally committed to the promotion of the dignity of human life. They’re tireless and they’re faithful — and it’s inspiring and encouraging for all of us,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said in an interview with the Rhode Island Catholic.
The Human Life Guild is comprised of Catholics in the Diocese of Providence who are committed to promoting the cause of life through prayer, action and evangelization. The annual Mass is one of two major events for the guild held each year.
“For almost half a century now we have been fighting the greatest battle of our times, the battle to defend, protect, and to cherish life from conception until natural death, from courtroom hearings to pep rallies, rosaries on the sidewalk and marches. We have contended that the most pressing issue in our democracy concerns human decency — that we respect life,” Father Nicholas Fleming, the chaplain of the guild, said in his homily.
Father Fleming noted that pro-lifers were coming to pray for what he described as ‘the most basic human right’ before the altar where God offers His life for us. He alluded to that Saturday’s Gospel reading from John, where John the Baptist declares in reference to Jesus, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). The only way to win the fight for life, he said, is by praying to Jesus.
“We pray for the cause of life, for those who are most defenseless,” Father Fleming concluded. “We pray that God would change the hearts and positions of legislators, proponents for the culture of death, and those who are apathetic to the cause. We pray that God will change the heart of our country, to care for the weak and most vulnerable, and to defend life from conception until natural death.”
“We live in difficult times! There is much disrespect for human life: the unborn (over 60 million babies have died since the legalization of abortion), the sick, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry — from the beginning of life in a mother’s womb to the end of life in a hospice ward. Life faces threats all around,” Carol Owens, the director of the diocesan Life and Family Ministry, said in an email to the Rhode Island Catholic.
The Mass was held in conjunction with the display of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the cathedral. The Mass ended with a prayer for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession for unborn babies at risk for abortion and expectant parents. Afterwards, 13 children from St. Charles Borromeo placed a dozen red roses — representing the unborn children who had died in abortion over the last 12 months — at the base of the image. A 13th white rose symbolized men and women who had been affected by abortion.
“Hopefully and prayerfully, the Miraculous Image of Our Lady will bring hope to a society and a world that is in constant turmoil. In the words of St. John Paul II, ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe is Queen of all the Americas — north, south, and central.’ This particular image weeps tears of oil for all of the sadness in the world. We will be praying for an end to abortion, euthanasia, physician assisted-suicide and other threats to God’s gift of life,” Owens said.
The Mass was followed by a reception in the cathedral basement, where Owens read a statement from Barth Bracy, the executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life.
“The present legislative environment is one of the most challenging we have seen in many years. The radical abortion lobby has doubled down on the sophisticated and deceptive campaign they began in 2016. And they have added to their ranks in the recent elections making the vote count too close to call,” Bracy wrote in his statement.
Bracy said it is critical for lawmakers to see the numbers in the pro-life movement. That opportunity will come on Tuesday, Jan. 22, when Rhode Island Right to Life hosts its statewide Pro-Life Rally. The event will be held at the Statehouse from 3 to 4 p.m.