In 1973 Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a little prayer after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion. Invoking the intercession of the Holy Family, he pleaded for divine protection over unborn babies in danger of being aborted.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much,” he wrote. “I beg you to spare the life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.”

Servant of God Sheen encouraged Catholics to pray this prayer daily for nine months in the name of the baby. He believed that, by such “spiritual adoption” of specific babies — one prayer at a time — the advance of the culture of death in America and abroad could be thwarted.

Today the cause continues: Archbishop Sheen’s prayer is circulated around the world on prayer cards bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, thanks to the efforts of a Colorado man who has been promoting spiritual adoption for close to a decade.

Arthur Maes of Northglenn, Colo., has distributed more than 10 million prayer cards bearing the prayer through his organization, Crusade for Life International.

“We’ll mail close to a million and a half prayer cards because of your article,” he said. He speaks from experience, as the Register first covered his work several years ago.

Maes wants Christians to use the power of prayer to stop what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called “the most grievous sin in the world.”

“Only through prayer will we have peace in this world,” Maes says. “You can’t kill a million and a half babies a year and not end up facing the wrath of God.”

“By spiritually adopting the child,” he adds, “you ask God to spare his or her life.”

Here’s how it works: Pro-lifers across the country participate in the apostolate by praying the Sheen prayer daily for nine months — the time of gestation — until the unknown baby is born.

Maes suggests choosing a name for “your” baby to make the experience personal, and then holding a “baby shower” at the end of the nine months.

The back of the card reads: “During your earthly life, this spiritually adopted child of yours will be known only to God, but in the world to come it is hoped that you will meet the child whose life was spared by your prayers and spend eternal happiness with them.”

Maes is a member of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Council No. 7502 of the Knights of Columbus. There are about 1.5 million Knights worldwide, and Maes believes it is possible to stop abortion if every one of his brother Knights prays for the lives of the unborn facing abortion.

He says he wants to see spiritual-adoption leaders in every parish and Knights council in the United States.

He is also looking to establish state and regional directors to drive this prayerful piece of the pro-life movement.

“Ten seconds doesn’t sound like much,” Maes says. “It’s not the quantity of the prayer but the quality. If you so desire, there is a longer format. This one might take a minute to pray. In either case, it involves taking a few seconds out of your day to ask God to spare the life of a child.”

Cards Connect

Maes began his crusade for life in the late ‘90s. A friend returned from Rome and asked him to distribute pro-life prayer cards. After Maes ran out of his supply, he decided to print more.

He received permission from the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, the organization promoting the late bishop’s cause for sainthood. Maes then contacted a friend who is a printer; the friend offered to supply Crusade for Life with an unlimited supply of cards.

Pamela Presbitero, a spokeswoman from the Sheen Foundation, says the group endorses the work of people like Arthur Maes.

“We believe it is a good tool to promote the culture of life,” she says. “You may not meet the child you adopt in life, but there’s every hope that you will meet him in heaven.”

Bob Paige of Michigan does work similar to Maes, distributing prayer cards bearing the spiritual-adoption prayer. He said he conceived the idea after he returned to the Church following a 40-year absence.

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 1999, Paige attended a pro-life prayer rally and came across Sheen’s prayer.

“The prayer stuck with me for some reason,” he says. “I prayed about it and asked the Lord to show me what to do — and he did.”

“All I had to do was get the cards out to people,” adds Paige. “I’ve done over a million and a half cards. The Good Lord keeps sending me people. I just keep doing my thing and he keeps doing his.”

Arthur Maes couldn’t have said it better himself.

Tucker Cordani writes

from Orlando, Florida.