Some Catholics are confusing the importance of life issues within the church’s social values agenda, Bishop Malooly said during a Jan. 27 Eucharistic holy hour at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Wilmington.
“In the hierarchy of social values, none is higher or of greater importance than the right to life,” the bishop said. “Nowhere in our teaching does the church sanction the killing of an unborn baby in order to further social justice. Many in our society sadly seem to think that is the case.”
The holy hour, attended by nearly 200 people, was the first in a monthly series that will be held throughout the diocese as part of the U.S. bishops’ Call to Prayer movement during the Year of Faith.
The holy hours, with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Scripture readings, a homily, contemplation and Benediction, will focus on prayers to build a culture favorable to life, marriage and religious liberty.
Bishop Malooly told the congregation at IHM that in addition to the holy hours, he is encouraging Catholics during the Year of Faith to pray the rosary daily, and to abstain from meat and also fast on Fridays throughout the year. The diocese will also celebrate a second Fortnight for Freedom, two weeks leading to the Fourth of July that will focus on the American right of religious liberty.
The Call to Prayer events and practices are a reminder, the bishop said, that “dependence on the Lord through prayer and our presence before the Blessed Sacrament is extremely important.”
Speaking two days after the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., the bishop said, “God gives life and can take it back home when he is ready. It is not our right to interfere with that.” However, “the moral compass in our country continues to move away from respect for all life.”
The bishop said that when he blessed young pilgrims prior to the March for Life during a Mass at St. John the Beloved Parish, he told them he had turned 69 on Jan. 18. “But when I thought of that reality, I realized that actually it was 69 ¾ because my life began when I was conceived by my mom and dad, not when I was delivered. Science has long proven that life begins at conception. It is no longer disputed in serious circles.”
In praying before the Blessed Sacrament to do better in promoting respect for life, the bishop reminded the congregation that the church “teaches us to do this with compassion, to explain to others that there are alternatives.”
The bishop praised the work of Catholic Charities’ Bayard House “that helps young women who are pregnant to prepare themselves for the birth of their child and the support and upbringing of that child. They have a real choice,” he said.
“What the church is about is never simply a matter of imposition of our church laws. Protecting life is God’s universal law.”
The bishop urged the congregation to “pray for the precious unborn,” pray for young women and families facing the “menace of abortion” and to pray for those who have had abortions.
“So often, they, too, are victims, in their own way, of a society that sanctions this crime and offers no clear alternatives.”
Prayers for a change of heart on life issues can include challenges to neighbors, family members and co-workers “who do not understand the sanctity of life,” the bishop said. “This can be a gentle form of charity.”
Noting he will join 40 Days for Life demonstrators praying at Planned Parenthood in Wilmington on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, the bishop said, “Our prayer and our presence there can have a tremendous impact.”
The bishop also thanked the Knights of Columbus for their support providing ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers as one of the greatest gifts for pro-life efforts, “a wake-up call for many women who take advantage of those sonograms. There can be no question what they see is life.”
Bishop Malooly quoted Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston on three qualities of pro-life witness — joy, charity and dependence on Christ.
“We kneel here today before our Blessed Sacrament and acknowledge our dependence on Christ,” the bishop said. “Let him provide the joy and charity that will help us continue to change hearts and minds, to lead men and women to life and to ultimately change this horrible culture of death that we have experienced for the past 40 years once again into a culture of life.”
Thomas J. Smoot, a St. Helena’s parishioner, said he attended the holy hour to “pray with my church for this godless country.” He called prayers for life, marriage and religious freedom “much needed in a nation where prayer is greatly discouraged.