As Catholics approach the polls, we are asked to weigh many important issues. The U.S. bishops have reaffirmed that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” While they did warn us not to “dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty,” they did give priority to upholding and defending our brothers’ and sisters’ most basic right—to live.
Abortion tragically ends someone’s life when he or she is most vulnerable and most in need of loving protection. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, meaning that it is never permitted or morally justified, regardless of individual circumstances or intentions. The personal and societal consequences of attacks against human life, whether at its earliest stages or at its final stages, are all the more serious because most often they are “carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family—the family which by its nature is called to be the ‘sanctuary of life.’” This is the place where a person should be most loved, cherished, and protected.
Catholics are called to defend human life wherever it is threatened and stand up for human dignity wherever it is violated. The enormous number of human lives destroyed by abortion is one factor that elevates its importance. The most recent available data indicates over 2,000 children per day die from abortion in the United States. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, over 61 million children have been killed—and untold numbers of women and men suffer in the aftermath.
The tragedy of abortion is also distinct in that it is currently legal to directly and intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. Current laws in our country fail to protect the lives of unborn children. Our highest Court does not recognize children in their mothers’ wombs as persons and claims that abortion is a constitutional right. Further, many political leaders work actively to increase access to abortion. Some falsely describe it as health care and even as a basic human right.
People of good will must boldly stand up against this intrinsic evil, especially when it is occurring on a massive scale, implemented in law and funded, in some instances, by the government. As believers and citizens inspired by the Gospel and guided by the shepherds of our Church, we must do what we can to end violence in the womb, to ensure that unborn children are fully recognized and protected by our laws, and to support mothers and fathers in embracing life.
My dear Friends,
Please find attached our Declaration of Independence. As we prepare to celebrate our “Independence Day,” let us reflect more deeply on this hallowed document. Perhaps it can be seen as prophetic on its own terms, much more profound than the authors imagined. Please pray with it, and for our country, in these turbulent times. God bless you.
This is a liturgical version by Cynthia Bourgeault. It is adapted from the Offertory of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “Mass on the World” (The Heart of Matter, p. 119-121) as excerpted by Ursula King (in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Selected Readings, p. 80-81).
Participants are seated in a circle. After a few minutes of silent settling, the Mass begins. The readers can read from their seats, or can come forward to a lectern or podium. If they choose to sit, it is best for them to be opposite one another in the circle.
If preferred, the whole recitation can be done over soft background music. Cynthia Bourgeault strongly recommends “Essence” by Peter Kater, which is forgiving in the extreme and perfectly adapted to the overall mood and intent.
READER 1: Since once again, Lord…I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond
these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole world my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.
Over there, on the horizon, the sun has just touched with light the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and,
once again, begins its fearful travail. I will place on my paten, O God, the harvest to be won by this renewal of labor. Into my chalice I shall pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the earth’s fruits.
My chalice and my paten are the depths of a soul laid widely open to all the forces which in a moment will rise up from every corner of the earth and converge upon the Spirit. Grant me the
remembrance and the mystic presence of all those whom the light is now awakening to a new day.
READER 2: One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my
life. One by one, I also number those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of
the heart, of scientific research, and of thought. And one by one—more vaguely, it is true, yet all-inclusively—I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who
surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory, and factory, through their vision of truth or despite
their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will again take up their impassioned pursuit of the light.
This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of
humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts of even those whose faith is most firm; it is to his deep that I thus desire all the fibers of my being should respond. All the
things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those, too, that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice, the only material you desire.
READER 1: Once upon a time, men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvest, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need each day to appease
your hunger, to slake your thirst, is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onward in the stream of universal becoming.
(Reader 1 gestures participants to stand and raise their arms in a mutual oblation.)
Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day.
(All in the circle hold the gesture for at least one or two minutes—as long as the energy can be
sustained. Then, as Reader 1 lowers their arms, inviting those in the circle to do likewise, Reader 2 begins to speak.)
READER 2: This bread, our toil, is of itself, I know, but an immense fragmentation; this wine, our pain, is no more, I know, than a draught that dissolves. Yet in the very depths of this formless mass you
have implanted—and this I am sure of, for I sense it—a desire, irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out, believer and unbeliever alike, “Lord, make us one.”
READER 1 “Lord, make us one…..”
(Readers encourage others in circle to join in this spoken petition. When words subside, turn
down the music, and readers again sit, inviting participants to do likewise. Liturgy then moves into silent meditation for at least five or ten more minutes.)
We’re sharing Bishop Barron’s letter here:
In recent weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on countries around the world—and, increasingly, here in the United States.
In light of measures being taken to contain the outbreak and avoid further illness, many of us may be hesitant to leave our homes. In many areas, Mass and other church services may not be available.
It is at this exact moment that our faith is most needed.
In an effort to continue the practice of our faith in these trying times, I would like to invite you to join us online for daily Mass.
Beginning today, Tuesday, March 17, Word on Fire will be offering daily Mass for the foreseeable future.
If you cannot attend Mass or join us online, I encourage you to read the Gospels, pray with your families, and join yourself to the Eucharist—the source and summit of our Catholic faith—by making an act of spiritual communion like the one recommended by Archbishop Gomez: “I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”
And please continue to pray for all those affected by the coronavirus.
Bishop Robert Barron