by Fr. Galen Bank
A new pro-life campaign called “40 Days for Life”, took place in Ottawa from September 23rd to November 2nd, 2008. During this campaign, the faithful of Ottawa joined together to pray, fast and hold vigil outside of the Morgentaler abortuary, in downtown Ottawa, for 40 days and 40 nights.
When I was approached by Nicole Campbell, of Campaign Life Coalition, to promote 40 Days for Life at St Maurice Parish, it did not take a great deal of time to see the enormous potential of such an initiative. I saw it as an opportunity to encourage the faithful to participate in peaceful and prayerful activism in the pro-life movement. It also provided occasion to expose the truth and stark reality of abortion and to plead for God’s mercy and healing for the damage abortion has inflicted upon so many.
Personally, 40 Days for Life was an important realization that as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we have responsibility to love and care for all members of the Body – saint and sinner alike. Jesus, as the head of this body, has a deep love and commitment to its members, which is revealed in the scriptures. In John 17, Jesus expresses the burden on his heart for humanity as he prays to his Father. Allow me to quote a few passages:
“When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn 17:12).
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (v.15).
“Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth” (v. 17-19).
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one so that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (v. 22-24).
In these passages, it is Jesus’ desire that we be consecrated in truth, protected and guarded from the evil one, that no one be lost and that we be one with him now and in eternity. As disciples of Christ, we must embrace the same heart and desire of Jesus, that our brothers and sisters be consecrated in truth, protected and guarded from the evil one, that not one be lost and that all become ONE with him now and in eternity. By virtue of our Baptism, Jesus sends us into the world to carry on the same mission for which he came. We are entrusted with the responsibility and obligation to deeply love and care for one another desiring that not one soul be lost. The 40 Days for Life campaign was an opportunity for us to love and nurture the body of Christ and make some sacrifices for our brothers and sisters involved in the abortion industry – for mothers and fathers who have had abortions and are pondering abortion – and to pray for an end to the tragedy of abortion in our country.
In John 17:15, Jesus prays for our protection from the ‘evil one’ because he knows Satan relentlessly leads us away from God who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we doubt the power of Satan, then we might ask ourselves why so many men, women and teenagers are convinced that abortion is an acceptable practice? Why do many believe that the child in the womb of a mother is not a child when science indicates otherwise and that we have the right and authority to exterminate that life? The “father of lies” is hard at work and responsible for the veil of deceit and lies that prevent so many from grasping the truth of abortion. With conviction, we can say that the prayer, fasting and sacrifice offered in the 40 Days for Life were a powerful means of combating the darkness and deceit of the ‘evil one’.
The battle for life can become exhausting and seemingly fruitless, leading us to disengage, to not take it seriously or to simply roll over and say “nothing can happen anyway”. However, God is waiting for us to arise from our apathy and engage in the battle with him to end the innocent killing of babies. Without question, abortion is a great concern upon the heart of God. How painful it must be for Him to see approximately 120,000 abortions per day worldwide. How painful it is for God to see how we treat the most vulnerable and to see our apathy towards abortion. Nevertheless, our intercession and sacrifice releases power from on high and consoles the heart of God. I thank Nicole Campbell for organizing and motivating the faithful of Ottawa to engage in the battle for life.
Here are some reflections on the 40 Days for Life by Nicole Campbell the organizer from Campaign Life Coalition.
“The 40 Days for Life Campaign was a life-changing experience for many of us. Hearts were changed and people came to know Christ in a very powerful way. There were many people who would consider themselves ‘pro life’ but admittedly stated that they had never done anything ‘active’ like this before. Many people shared that they had intended to come out for an hour with their Church but after being out at the abortion facility they new they had to keep coming and so they did. There was one participant who was 79 years of age who took the late night shift every night of the Campaign for two hours – 39 nights in a row! Now, THAT is dedication!
“Ottawa will never be the same! The enemy’s grip has been greatly weakened and I believe with all of my heart that this abortion facility will close sooner rather than later. The Lord will hear our prayers and in his perfect time, we will see great fruit! During the 40 Days for Life Campaign we know of at least three children who were spared from abortion. This of course has major repercussions, as family trees have been potentially spared as well. Abortion workers have quit their jobs during the 40 Days for Life and we believe that many more women cancelled their appointments or just walked by the clinic doors because of our prayerful presence. We will find out in heaven one day.
“There was a profound peacefulness and spirit of reverence at the vigil site and passers-by could not help but be silent and respectful as they walked by all of us with our signs and rosaries. A community was formed on the streets of Ottawa during the 40 Days for Life which was so beautiful, who knew such a place would become a place of refuge drawing hundreds of people to come out and pray. We could not have been as successful as we were if it were not for the Companions of the Cross’ support and visible efforts! Vigil candles were lit, holy hours were arranged and CC priests spoke with boldness about the life issues from the pulpit. This is crucial in ending abortion and these brave priests were unafraid to give a voice to the voiceless as Jesus will ask us what we truly did for his little ones. What answer will we have for Him? We are called to be his hands and his feet and if we shy away from such issues, we will be held responsible.”
We must remember those who have had, participated or supported abortions in our prayers. We are called to love and show compassion to those who have been through this painful and tragic experience. If you are suffering from an abortion, please contact “Rachel’s Vineyard” in Ottawa, 613-806-5522 and in Toronto you can contact “Second Chance Ministry” at (416) 261-7135, 905-430-7990, or e-mail email@example.com.
Fr. Galen Bank is the Pastor of St. Maurice parish in Ottawa.
Originally published in the Winter 2009 Companions of the Cross magazine