Today, all dioceses in the United States are called to observe a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. January 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion throughout our nation.
The Church sets today aside as day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. It is also a day of penance for all violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.
As individuals, we are each called to observe this day through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and/or almsgiving.
Abortion is an example of how we, as individuals and as a society, fail to recognize the dignity of each child, knit within the womb of his or her mother. We allow our hearts to be hardened to the truth. Our culture either fails to recognize the undeniable humanity of unborn children, who deserve our love and protection, or disregards it.
But the Gospel reveals how we should respond to the gift of new life. In the story of the Visitation, we see Mary, an unmarried woman who is newly pregnant with the Infant Jesus, going in haste to the aid of her cousin Elizabeth, who is herself six months pregnant. Luke tells us that at the very moment that Elizabeth heard the sound of Mary’s voice, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. From the womb of his own mother, John the Baptist recognizes the presence of Jesus, hidden within the womb of Mary. And Elizabeth responds with those familiar and beautiful words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Both John and Elizabeth recognize the life hidden within Mary’s womb, the one who is their Savior.
This Gospel passage so tenderly illustrates the humanity of all unborn children, created in God’s own image and likeness. Every new life should be greeted with the same joyful enthusiasm that led John the Baptist to literally leap in the womb of Elizabeth.
On this day, may we join the Church in continued prayer for the legal protection of all unborn children. May we offer penance for all violations against the dignity of human life. In a special way, may we also pray for all women and men who suffer from participation in abortion, that they may find healing, peace, and reconciliation with God.
And may we recommit ourselves to supporting all expectant mothers. May we never fail to set out … in haste. As the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy, so may our hearts leap with joy at the wonders of new life in every expectant mother.
God our Creator, we give thanks to you, who alone have the power to impart the breath of life as you form each of us in our mother's womb; grant, we pray, that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life.