Pro-life women encouraged to persevere despite challenges

NEWTON -- Optimism was central to the gathering of Catholic women at this year’s Women Affirming Life Advent Mass and breakfast forum, held at the Newton Marriott Hotel.

With close to 250 women attending this year’s event, the Dec. 13 gathering began with a Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, who praised the women’s commitment for pro-life issues.

During the homily, the cardinal acknowledged that, “today’s climate for the pro-life movement is very challenged,” but stressed that defending life is “at the center of our Catholic faith.”

Referring to the Gospel reading about the wise and foolish virgins, the cardinal exhorted the assembly to “have oil in our lamps.”

“We live in a world blinded by materialism and hedonism. There are so many things trying to put out the light [of Christ],” Cardinal O’Malley said, adding that as Catholics we are called to “put the bridegroom back into Christmas.”

“This is the challenge,” he added. “This is the mission.”

The cardinal then pointed out that the gathering was being held on the feast of St. Lucy, the patron saint of the blind. He explained that St. Lucy was a consecrated virgin who refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Sicily for which she was stabbed and killed.

According to Cardinal O’Malley, in the unreformed Julian calendar, the feast of St. Lucy was originally held on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

In her remarks at the start of the breakfast forum, which began immediately following the Mass, Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-Life Office for the Archdiocese of Boston, drew on the cardinal’s homily.

“The feast day of St. Lucy is very appropriate for Women Affirming Life, said Luthin.

Luthin said that, just like the winter months, society can seem “dark and dreary,” but that “every day after the feast of St. Lucy, there’s a little bit more light.”

“As women affirming life, we want to be that little bit more light in the world,” she said.

Luthin announced several new pro-life initiatives, including the newly organized Deacons for Life, which will hold their first archdiocesan-wide event, a “Holy Hour for Life,” next month. According to Luthin, close to 100 parishes have signed up to be a part of the holy hour which will be held on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

Following Luthin’s pro-life updates, a short film entitled, “The Gospel of Life: Making the Choice to Love” was shown to the 250 people in the audience. Narrated by Cardinal O’Malley, the film spoke of the need to defend life in society.

Once the movie ended, Sister Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, delivered the keynote address, entitled “Unto us a child is born: Advent reflections on the culture of life.”

“When people were waiting for a government solution to injustice and oppression, God sent a child. After the spirit had been silent since the days of Jeremiah for several hundred years, God sent a child...And at a pro-life breakfast it is quite appropriate to reflect on God sending to us a child,” began Sister Kathryn.

Sister Kathryn noted that God’s “dramatic” action -- that of sending his son into the world -- provides an insight into God’s intervention in history.

“His work will be known because it is light in the midst of the darkest night, imaginatively unique and incomprehensibly wise,” she said.

Using the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, who followed Christ in the “seeming futility of her work,” Sister Kathryn urged the women in attendance to not lose heart.

Sister Kathryn then quoted the late Pope John Paul II who wrote, “Faced with the countless grave threats to life present in the modern world, one could feel overwhelmed by sheer powerlessness,” she said.

“God comes to announce that the night is over,” she said. “Yes we still have trouble seeing because it is so dark, but the night is over.”

Concluding her talk, she exhorted everyone, “Be saints! Raise your children as saints!”

“The future of the Church depends on it, the future of the pro-life movement depends on it, the future of the world depends on it,” she declared.

“I absolutely loved this,” said Boston University senior Lauren O’Gara. “At out school we [pro-life women] are definitely the minority. It’s great to be in a place where everyone agrees with you.”

“This is so extraordinary that it is hard to put into words,” said Adrian Goodfellow, a mother from Milton. Holding her 8-month-old son James, she added that “it was wonderful to hear about someone talking about the culture of life for a change.”

“To see all these women here fighting for life is extraordinary,” she said.