As dioceses around the world followed Pope Benedict XVI in holding a “Vigil for all Nascent Human Life” Nov. 27, one apostolate based in France has been dedicated to praying for the unborn for more than 20 years.
Headed by Helen le Goaëc, Pilgrimages for Life is made up 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 up for medical professionals and politicians.
Pilgrimages for Life is based in Cotignac in southern France, which, until the Lourdes apparitions, was the most famous pilgrimage center in the country. As well as being known for the apparitions and miracles there, the town is also well known for the 17th-century French King Louis XIII and Queen Anne, who prayed to Our Lady of Cotignac for an heir after 23 years of marriage and four miscarriages. A son duly arrived and would later become Louis XIV.
Helen le Goaëc spoke to the Register about her apostolate while attending a Human Life International congress in Rome recently.
How would you describe Pilgrimages for Life?
For the past 20 years we’ve been having Masses said for the unborn child. The aim of these Masses is for the first victim who is the child. The parents are also victims if they didn’t know, though not all of them are victims. We mustn’t be stupid about this. Some of them were completely ignorant, but others knew quite well what they were doing and they did it on purpose.
We decided — or it was decided for us from above — that these children have the right to have a Christian name. That is their identity; it is the hand of God on them. They have the right to have a holy Mass said for their soul, whether they are aborted, miscarried or stillborn, and unfortunately [died] because of the [contraceptive] coil. We’ve had testimonies about this, which shows that it is a very early abortive — it still destroys a life. This is a lurking underground problem causing many aftermaths, as they do not realize they may have lost several babies at the very beginning of pregnancy.
So, we’ve been doing this for 20 years, and our prayer is really that they [the unborn] should enter the Church and the communion of the saints. It’s based on Revelation 6:9-11. We have these beautiful ceremonies: a whole day of reparation, a walk of silence, at a Holy Family center in Cotignac, between Marseilles and Nice. These ceremonies are intense; fervent but full of joy. It is Our Lady and her angels who seem to organize things. People testify that they came “by chance” to visit, without knowing there was a ceremony, and were much in need of this grace. It’s a Holy Family center because Our Lady appeared there in 1519 with the Child Jesus and in 1660 St. Joseph appeared on a neighboring hill — all completely approved of by the Church because there have been so many miracles. It’s the only place in the world where it’s recognized by the Church that St. Joseph actually appeared. So it is very important. St. Joseph is very important in this new millennium, and he also cures the wounds against innocents, because many of these women had big problems in their lives, not only through abortion — sometimes through abuse by a member of the family or someone close to them.
Do you see the results of your apostolate — that it is having a great effect on the mothers who have had abortions?
Once we have offered the children, the cork comes out of the bottle. Then the Lord can really help the mothers, the parents, and then there’s a lot of inner healing. We have a lot of testimonies. It is beautiful, encouraging and hard work.
So, you quickly see the fruits of your prayers?
Yes, and I would say there’s usually an immediate grace, but sometimes they’ve acquired very bad habits and it takes them time to correct these. But after two years, suddenly things begin to work out and wake up. The improvements are not only in their own spiritual lives, because they all come back and then become our best relays to other women. Also the children — the siblings are also really, really healed.
Do you also work with Project Rachel?
No, we work more with Mère de Miséricorde, which is an equivalent organization in France. We start by offering the child, and then if the mother still needs healing, she goes to these other organizations. What we start with is the “spiritual” solution: repentance, reparation, love, peace and joy — offering “justice and peace to the children,” whether aborted, miscarried or stillborn.
We’re called Pilgrimages for Life because it’s about pilgrimages for the child who died before birth, before baptism. We had the blessing of John Paul II in 2001, which was our 15th anniversary. He wrote quite a long paragraph, not just a picture on a card, but a really nice, meaningful blessing. And we know that he’s very much in union with us and still working hard all over the place. The need [for this apostolate] is very, very great. If a woman had an abortion 10 or 20 years ago, when she realizes that she has killed her own child, the regret is so great that she wants reparation, and so she comes to us.
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.