The Spanish missionaries who hoped to convert the Indians of the New World may have been discouraged that their efforts were not bearing fruit.
But everything changed with the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, and a culture of death was supplanted by a Christian society.
Likewise, the pro-life movement has seemingly seen little progress in the 40 years or more of trying to overturn laws that permit abortion. Abortions are up, and places like New York City, with its 41% abortion rate, rival the land of the Aztecs, where infants were sacrificed to appease angry gods.
But, Bishop William Lori said this morning, for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision 38 years ago, there is a “solid majority of Americans who are pro-life.”
Bishop Lori, the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, made the comparison at the Mass that brought the National Prayer Vigil for Life to a close Jan. 24. The 7:30am Mass was attended by “pilgrims,” as he called them, to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., filling every pew and side chapel of the vast Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. As it was last night at the opening Mass and as it has been for several years, young people far outnumbered middle-aged and older Catholics attending the Mass.
Bishop Lori chose to celebrate the Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is patroness of the unborn. In his homily, he noted that just as Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth carrying the newly conceived Jesus, she appeared at Tepeyac in modern-day Mexico City bearing the Christ Child. And she came into what was at that time a “culture of death,” with its practice of human sacrifice.
“A culture of death is a culture that has lost its hope,” he said, contrasting such a culture to the pro-life movement, which he called “one of hope.” It carries the message, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, that “no human being is an accident, that each of us is a thought of God, willed, loved and necessary.”
“That’s the message that we offer to women who are considering abortion,” he said, “to people who are deeply unhappy because they’ve been deceived by the message that we are happy only when we live for ourselves.”
He asked aloud if the efforts of the pro-life movement are “useless,” but concluded that “our presence here year after year shows that the truth is having an effect.” He cited recent surveys: Eight out of 10 Americans would restrict abortion “far more than what it currently is,” for example, and that six out of 10 young people believe that abortion is morally wrong.
“That could not have been done without Our Lady of Guadalupe and her powerful intercession,” he said.
The message seemed to resonate with several people, who visited the basilica’s side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, including two members of the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a public association of the faithful founded 10 years ago by Cardinal Raymond Burke when he was bishop of La Crosse, Wis.
“We wanted to be here near Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Will Goodman, who was praying morning prayer there with Patrick O’Donnell. “She teaches us how to love God and love our neighbor.”