Praying and Witnessing for Life

My mother and I have a dear friend named Mary Szydlik, whom we’ve known since I was a baby. It wasn’t until last year that I realized how she became a selfless advocate for mothers and babies. She shared the following story with me: “My mother almost aborted me without her knowledge. The doctor told her that her heart was very bad and she would not survive this pregnancy so, unbeknownst to her, the baby would be aborted to save her life. My Aunt Caroline, a nurse, was with her and found out.” Instead, Mrs. Szydlik’s father took her mother to stay with family in Utica, NY.

“The doctor in Utica agreed with the prognosis but was able to stick with my mother, as long as my mother would live. Everybody prayed. I have a 100 year old cousin, Sr. Mary Loyola, who is a Sister of Charity and she remembers praying for me as a teenager. My mother lived through the delivery and to be 67. She saw 5 of her 6 grandchildren.”

This powerful witness encapsulates what is needed in the pro-life movement today: sharing the truth with charity, accompanying those who are experiencing difficult pregnancies, and praying for the victory of life.

While we give thanks to God that Roe vs. Wade was overturned, we are also cognizant that it isn’t a time to become complacent. We perceive the enemy’s insidious tactics in perverting the truth—misrepresenting Church teachings and even Our Lord’s own words in the Gospel—in attempt to present abortion as something that is good and loving. While some of these ploys may seem obvious to those with deep faith, I was recently reminded of how stealthily the evil one tries to plant these seeds of confusion and distrust in our own lives.

Consider Psalm 139, for instance. Some of the most recited lines are: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14) These words remind us of how precious we are in the sight of God. He created us, chose us, and cherishes us. Have you ever meditated upon the whole Psalm? It struck me at Mass this week that some of the same language is used in the book of Job. As he tries to make sense of the suffering in his life, Job questions why he was born and speaks of being “hemmed in” by God. (Job 3:23) Some translations of Psalm 139:5 read: “You hem me in behind and before you lay your hand on me.”

If I’m honest, my initial reaction to these words was—I don’t like to feel confined, I like to be in control. Isn’t that, in a sense, what Adam and Eve decided in the Garden? Though at first read being “hemmed in” may seem undesirable, the question really becomes: Do I trust in God, will I allow myself to be loved by Him and to rest near His Heart like a child?

A wonderful lady named Nancy Snyder once shared with me that she was born prematurely. Her mother had several other children and a lot of domestic duties, but wanted to keep her close by to watch over her. Nancy’s mother had a special apron with a little pouch in front and, since Nancy was so small she fit snugly inside, where she could rest near her mother all day. When I was praying with Psalm 139, it struck me that this is what it means to be “hemmed in.”

What about where it says “you lay your hand on me”? I am blessed to have twin nieces who were born several months prematurely. They were so small that you could almost hold them in the palm of your hand. When they were in the incubator, the doctors encouraged the family to gently place one of their hands on the twins’ backs and hold it there. Since they were so tiny and sensitive, placing one’s hand on their backs was comforting to them. God is a gentleman and knows that we are small—He’s got our backs.

As we grow in the knowledge that we are caressed by God and are His beloved children, we become more fruitful in His service. Like Our Lady, when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we “make haste” to visit and generously share God’s love with others in need. In the words of Alfonso Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo, President, Pontifical Council for the Family:

“In the Eucharist we see the meaning of love and receive the power to live it. The very same words, furthermore, that the Lord uses to teach us the meaning of love are also used by those who promote abortion: ‘This is my body.’ These four little words are spoken from opposite ends of the universe, with totally opposite results. Christ gives His body away so others might live; abortion supporters cling to their own bodies so others might die. Christ says ‘This is My Body given up for you; This is My Blood shed for you.’ These are the words of sacrifice; these are the words of love.”

The Blessed Mother’s fiat is our model in living the Gospel of life. When Mary said “yes” to God she became a living tabernacle. This is also why Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the unborn. Cardinal Emeritus Raymond Burke called this apparition “the mystery of the Visitation as it was experienced on our continent in 1531,” continuing:

“The woman clothed with the sun, bearing the Infant Savior, the Anointed, in her womb, appeared to Saint Juan Diego, from December 9 to 12, 1531, in order that a chapel be built in which she might manifest the all-generous and never-failing merciful love of God for us, incarnate in her womb and alive for us in the Church, above all, in the Sacrament of the Real Presence, the Holy Eucharist. . . . She inspired her sons and daughters to abandon the horror of human sacrifice and to respect the inviolable dignity of every man, both the Native American and the European, so now she inspires us to be tireless disciples of the Gospel of Life, working to end the horror of procured abortion and so-called ‘mercy-killing,’ and to promote the respect for the dignity of every human life from the moment of inception to the moment of natural death.”

At present, we are invited to join in the 40 Days for Life campaign that began on September 28 and ends on November 6. Visit www.40daysforlife.com to find your nearest location and sign up to help. The prayerful presence of pro-lifers at sites has been shown to lower client appointments by over 70%! 

All of us are able to promote the Gospel of life, even from our own homes. Pray and fast, in whatever way(s) you can, for the unborn and pregnant mothers in need. Make Spiritual Communions when you are unable to go to daily Mass. Offer Holy Hours of Eucharistic Adoration and Rosaries for the victory of life in our country and throughout the world. St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “If people spent one hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration, abortion would be ended.”

Throughout Church history, the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary have brought about victories in hopeless times. One example is the battle of Lepanto in 1571.When the Ottoman Turks sought to destroy Christianity in Europe, Pope Pius V instructed all Churches to hold 40 hours devotions [Eucharistic Adoration] and recite the Rosary. The Catholic faith was saved when people prayed before our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and offered the Holy Rosary. Formerly the feast of Our Lady of Victory, we now celebrate this feast as Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7.

“In all the free time you have, once you have finished your duties of state, you should kneel down and pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.” (St. Padre Pio) “If I had an army to say the Rosary I could conquer the world.” (Pope Pius IX) May we rejoice in God’s Presence and Our Lady’s intercession! Let us pray and work for the final victory of life in our world.

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Mary Beth Bracy is a writer who is blessed to research, publish, and speak extensively on various aspects of Catholic spirituality. Her books include Behold the LambBread of Life and The Little Way of Healing Love Through the Passion of Jesus: The Stations of the Cross with St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She is also co-author of the book Stories of the Eucharist. She has written articles for numerous Catholic publications and recorded some Catholic talks. For more information or to view her blog visit The Little Way

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