Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Earlier this summer I met with several dedicated individuals to talk about how we might enhance our Pro-Life ministry at Saint Mary and have more of an impact on our city.
It is important to pray; we pray a lot. It is important to speak the truth; we speak. It is also vitally important to do something to help provide alternatives to abortion—we have supported and volunteered with very generous donations of time, talent and treasure to local organizations such as Birthright, Mary’s Shelter, and others.
Still, the fact is, even though there are no corporate providers of abortion in the Fredericksburg area, statistics show that we are third in the state only to Fairfax and Richmond: 37.2% of the pregnancies in the Fredericksburg area are terminated early by abortion. From a national standpoint, I also wonder if the number seems to be down across the country due to the fact that there are so many easily obtained contraceptives that cause a spontaneous loss of a child’s life before he or she can register as a statistic.
The simple fact that recent videos—which are widely known by all—are widely ignored by our leaders is a damning judgment of our culture. But pointing fingers and shouting has rarely proven to be useful. We must educate, we must embrace people in difficulty, we must be people of mercy. And we must do this visibly and powerfully in order to cut through the confusion of this age. Life is good, life is a gift, and every person is made in the image and likeness of God. His beauty and goodness are not to be destroyed. Pope Francis uses this as a central theme in his recent work on the Care of Creation. It is a crime to be cruel to pets…what is wrong with this picture?
A conversation I had recently with a mom still chills me. I was wondering out loud why so many young people leave the Church so soon after receiving the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. She said that from her experience, many youth today confront a profound contradiction: follow the Church—but take this pill “just in case.” It’s the slippery slope of departure. They learn to follow one teaching, but ignore others. And in doing so, drift away from Truth.
Education. We need to teach children about their beauty, their dignity as children of God. The world is a mess. They don’t need to have crushes on popstar- bad-example-teens and idolize the person who wears the least clothes. They are a gift and they need to save that gift for a person who they really love and to whom they want to give their life, as Jesus does for them.
Support and Welcome. We need to go out and find ways to show we care. God said it is mercy he desires, not sacrifice. If we weren’t sinners—all of us—we would have no need of a Church. Jesus wouldn’t have had to go to all this Trouble to love us. It was the sinners that he went out on the road to seek out, to love and to reassure that he came for them despite the onlookers who judged him for what he was doing. We need to be people who are known first for our loving welcome, not our self-righteousness.
As a sign of that welcome we have made a decision. As grateful as we are for the tombstone commemorating the unborn that was placed on our property by the Knights many years ago, I think it is time for a strong, symbolic change in communication. Over the years there have been many women who have told me that they felt punched in the gut every time they drove in our parking lot to come to Mass or make a visit in church. They had made a mistake, they were very sorry, always will be. But did they have to be reminded of it every time they came to church? “The church,” one older lady told me, “should be a place of refuge for us who grieve our mistakes.”
If today’s statistics are right, and one out of four women have experienced the horror of abortion, and are getting to church, then we are opening a lot of wounds without even intending to do so.
There was a time when these tombstones were placed everywhere, but not any longer. People have realized that a positive message goes farther.
I have ordered a life-sized bronze sculpture of the Holy Family to be placed in the island in front of the Parish Life Center. We have already paid half, it is not cheap, but I believe this is the right thing. Jesus is standing in Mary’s lap, Joseph stands alongside them. It will be placed on a brick pedestal so that it will be clearly visible, even when the parking lot is full of cars.
Maybe you can help us pay for it, will you? It is an extraordinary expense and we didn’t budget for it, but I feel this strongly about it. It will be a testimony to the love and mercy of God during the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy.
God bless you.