WASHINGTON — Pro-lifers must make their lives a Nativity scene, where they provide a welcoming witness and see Christ in the faces of the unborn, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said at the Jan. 21 March for Life vigil Mass in Washington.
“In the tiny baby, born or pre-born, we see the infant Jesus; in that child’s mother, especially when confused, scared and hopeless, we see Mary at the crib of Bethlehem,” he said in his homily.
An estimated crowd of 9,000 attended the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in North America. The Mass started an all-night prayer vigil for life on the eve of the annual March for Life.
Thirty-three cardinals and bishops, along with some 250 priests, concelebrated the Mass. Sixty deacons and 400 seminarians were also in attendance.
Friday, Jan. 22, marks the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that declared a woman’s legal right to have an abortion. The March for Life has been held every year on or around the Jan. 22 anniversary since 1973, a pro-life rally attended by hundreds of thousands of participants.
The theme of the 2016 march is “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand.”
Cardinal Dolan, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed that theme in his story of a young Mexican woman who, during Advent of 2015, placed her newborn child in an empty manger at the Nativity scene of Holy Child Jesus parish in Queens, New York.
The anonymous 18-year-old mother, who told her story to the New York Post, said she was scared to find out she was pregnant but decided to have the child. She ultimately put the baby in God’s hands by placing him in the manger because she knew the parish would care for the child.
Cardinal Dolan praised both her courage to have the child and the parish for setting such a Christlike example that she decided to bring the child there.
“True story, and I submit it to you, the jury, this evening as Exhibit A in our case for promoting the culture of life,” the cardinal remarked.
“God bless that little baby — who I hear is doing well and is named José after the foster father of Jesus,” he said. “God bless that frightened young mom who refused to believe in what Pope Francis has termed the ‘throwaway culture’; God bless Holy Child Jesus parish in Queens, for radiating such a spirit of welcome and joy and warmth and outreach that this Mexican mother spontaneously knew her baby would be safe there; God bless this culture of life!”
The outcome, he insisted, could have been quite different: The mother could have visited Planned Parenthood or encountered a “cold” reception at a Catholic parish or one that was locked “with a sign that was telling her, probably in English, to come back during office hours,” and she could have terminated the pregnancy.
“In a world that so often sadly says, ‘Sorry, no room at the inn’ to those in need, she found a manger, a sanctuary, in her Church,” he said, exhorting the faithful to give the same witness.
“My brother and sister apostles in the culture of life: Let every parish in our nation be Holy Child Jesus parish! ... Let all our people be like those parishioners whose smile and greeting and welcome and sense of love assured our young mom that her baby would be safe there.”
Just as Pope Francis, in his visit to Greccio, Italy, exhorted Catholics to make their lives like a Nativity set — warm, welcoming and Christ-centered — the faithful must do this by placing Christ at the center of their lives and seeing him in the poor, “especially the tiniest and the most fragile, the baby in the womb” Cardinal Dolan insisted.
“God’s word at Mass this evening tells us about a dramatic conversion of heart: Jonathan was able to convert his father, King Saul, from a fixation on death to a choice for life, convincing him not to murder David,” he continued. “We’re summoned to be such agents of conversion.”
This is done “by reasoned and compelling argument … by advocacy … in law and political action … by prayer and fasting,” he added.
But political advocacy alone is not enough, the cardinal continued.
A culture of life is “most successfully” brought about “by imitating those priests and parishioners at Holy Child Jesus parish in New York City by acknowledging that little José, that abandoned newborn baby, was nowhere more at home than in the empty manger of their parish Nativity scene, because he, too, is a child of God.”