To mark its 25th anniversary, Pilgrimages for Life, a French apostolate dedicated to praying for the unborn around the world, today is holding a special day of pilgrimage, remembrance and intercession for all children who died before and at birth without sacramental baptism.
The apostolate, which is also marking 10 years since it was blessed by Bl. Pope John Paul II, calls on all the faithful to remember these children “with love and to unite their innocent blood to the Precious Blood of Jesus in offering to them to the Mercy of the Father with hope through the Eucharist.”
The apostolate is based at the Marian shrine of Notre Dame de Grâces (Our Lady of Grace in Cotignac in southern France). Headed by Helen le Goaëc, the group is comprised of what she calls “friendly voices” who pray primarily for the unborn (aborted, stillborn or miscarried), but also for parents and siblings. In addition, prayers are offered for medical professionals and politicians.
Le Goaëc invites Catholics to have a priest celebrate the Eucharist “in unity of intention for the unborn babes of your country, for the souls in purgatory who committed acts against life including during the Wars, and for the conversion of the world.” She also asks that prayers be said for “those wounded in their integrity and innocence, spiritually, physically and psychologically, children and adults.”
She stresses these Eucharists “are for all unborn children, aborted, miscarried, stillborn, victims of ectopic pregnancies, IVF, the coil, and RU483 (the morning after pill).” Le Goaëc also asks Eucharists for the “often ‘forgotten babes’ from the time of the wars or in previous generations.”
The apostolate places an emphasis on giving these children names, drawing on the words of the Catechism (2158-2159) that God calls us by our name. The name “is sacred,” the Catechism says. “The name is the image of the person. It demands respect signifying the dignity of the person who bears it. ...The name received is a name for eternity. In the Kingdom of God ... there are no two people alike.”
Le Goaëc stresses the importance of “asking the guardian angels and Our Lady for the name of the babes” and that the names “are often given almost immediately in prayer.”
Notre Dame de Grâces is a sanctuary dedicated to the Holy Family since the apparition of
the Virgin with Child Jesus in 1519, and of St. Joseph who appeared in 1660. It is recognized by the Church owing to the many miracles that have occurred there.
Until the Lourdes apparitions, the shrine was the most famous pilgrimage center in the country. In the 17th century, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne of France prayed to Our Lady of Cotignac for an heir after 23 years of marriage and four miscarriages. A son duly arrived who would later become Louis XIV.
The apostolate invites the faithful to also hold another day of remembrance on Dec. 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.