Pro-Life Office

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Celebrating the Gospel of Life in Prayer and Culture

Segment Ten. Celebrating the Gospel of Life in Prayer and Culture (84, 85)

Overview: In his early life, John Paul II was an actor. He understood the importance of cultural expressions of faith and values. John Paul was also a man steeped in prayer. In the Gospel of Life he urges us to incorporate both prayer and symbols and cultural traditions into our efforts to build a culture of life.

“There are special times and ways in which the peoples of different nations and cultures express joy for a newborn life… care for the suffering or needy, closeness to the elderly and the dying, participation in the sorrow of those who mourn, and hope and desire for immortality.” So wrote John Paul II in the Gospel of Life where he made a specific call for a “Day for Life” in every country to celebrate the beauty and value of human life. Whether through liturgy, cultural heritage, song or prayer, John Paul reminds us that we are all called to something beyond us. As a former actor, he understands the importance of signs and celebrations in building a culture of life.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a powerful image. She came to a lowly peasant Mexican Indian peasant Juan Diego who helped renew Christianity in the New World and stop the practice of child sacrifice among the Aztec. Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the Intercessor of the Unborn. Her banner adorns shrines and accompanies pro-life vigils. The Pro Life Office has developed a nine-month Spiritual Adoption Program in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe that combines prayers to her for the unborn and their mothers along with educational materials on pre-natal development and a baby shower to assist pregnant mothers in need. This is one of many examples of how parishes can bring the best of our cultural and religious heritages together in a way that will enlighten minds and encourage the growth of a culture of life.

There are many other celebrations that seek to respond to John Paul’s call to integrate prayer and culture for life. The beautiful tradition of Annunciation Day has been developed in several parishes in ways which remind us of the dignity of human life from the moment of conception, sometimes using the original English carols that were written for the occasion. Each year, hundreds of people from the Archdiocese journey to Washington DC for the Annual March for Life. Among them are high school students who join in an Archdiocesan Pilgrimage for Life with Cardinal Sean. They pray at the national Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, attend a youth rally and then join tens of thousands of young and old alike at the March for Life. As these young people see and meet tens of thousands of other high school students from across the country offering public witness to the value of life, they are strengthened both in their faith and in their pro-life commitment.

Whether united with tens of thousands of people in our nation’s capital, or alone in our daily prayer, John Paul calls on us to celebrate the “glory of every human being, a sign of the living God, an icon of Jesus Christ” (84). Of all the psalms, Psalm 139 captures this spirit of the Gospel of Life the best, “Truly you have formed my inmost being. You  knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made. How marvelous are all your works.”

May this prayer of wonder, awe and praise guide our efforts to build a culture of our life and may the Lord of Life bless you and those you love.

Resources:
Psalm 139
On the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe
On the history of the Feast of the Annunciation 

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why does the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe draw such great devotion?
  2. More than a dozen Latin and South American countries have declared Annunciation Day (March 25) as an official “Day of the Unborn”. Why is recognition of the status of the unborn child as a human being an important function of secular governments?
  3. What are some ways in which your parish, or a cluster of local parishes, could celebrate the Gospel of Life in prayer and culture?